Tennis ace thrives on having fun
TEENAGE girls grow up fast, it is said.
Even accounting for that, Ashleigh Barty’s rise in junior world tennis this year is astonishing.
Leading up to the Australian Girls Open in January, Springfield-based Barty was just hoping to qualify for the main draw.
The then 14-year-old received a wildcard entry and lost in the first round, but that satisfied her ambitions at the time in what was her first junior major.
Move forward five months and she is the Wimbledon champion for girls 18 and under, having turned 15 in April.
“There was a little bit more pressure on at the Australian Open,” Barty said, explaining her performance in Melbourne.
“At Wimbledon I didn’t really feel any pressure.
“At the Australian Open I did.”
At Wimbledon Barty was able to have some fun.
“I was enjoying it over there,” she said.
“When it doesn’t feel like a job you enjoy playing tennis.
“Everything was coming together nicely.
“I like the grass.
“I like all surfaces.
“I thought clay was my favourite but am not so sure now.”
Before Barty won Wimbledon she reached the second round of the French Open and gave much of the credit to the time she has spent on the George Alder Tennis Centre clay courts at Leichhardt.
“That’s where I started my success last year,” she said.
“They’re kept in good condition and are really good to play on.”
She may have enjoyed herself at Wimbledon, but that’s not to say the occasion didn’t affect her.
“In the first and second round I was so nervous,” she said.
“It was my first time there.
“In the beginning I was thinking: ‘Wow, I’m playing at Wimbledon’.”
Once she got used to the surrounds, Barty was able to relax, even during the final against Russia’s Irina Kromacheva.
“I was less nervous than I thought I’d be,” she said.
The key was to treat it like any other match, even on match point.
“I think that’s the best way,” she said.
“You’ve just got to go out and play your opponent.
“You try not to think about what kinds of point it is.
“You just do what you’ve been doing the whole match.
“If you’ve got to match point it’s obviously working.”
She appreciated the occasion, played on Wimbledon’s Court 1 in front of more than 8000 people.
“It’s the biggest court I’ve played on in my life,” Barty said.
“In the beginning I was trying to block it out. But once the match goes on you look around a little bit, though you don’t really notice things.
“You’re not paying too much attention.”
Looking back she is able to appreciate the significance of her achievement.
“It was pretty cool,” she said.
“A little bit scary.
“Being able to say, ‘I stood there with the trophy’.
“Only one person a year gets to, so it’s pretty special.”