Multi-talented Ashleigh Barty has been a professional cricketer, winning a golf tournament and amassing two tennis Grand Slam titles, with a third beckoning at the Australian Open on Saturday. Few athletes can boost such a varied athletic resume, but the down-to-earth Australian has taken it in stride. Widely regarded as one of the nicest players on tour, the 25-year-old started playing tennis as a child in the state capital of Brisbane, Brisbane. But it was a trip to the Australian Open for training camp when she was “11 or 12” that turned out to be the spark that drove her to where she is today.
“To see how professional it was and to see everyone doing their thing was a real eye opener. My first encounter was with the juniors and I loved it,” she said this week.
“I think being able to taste that kind of flame made you burn. You wonder what you can achieve. You wonder what you can do.”
The Australian won the junior Wimbledon title in 2011 as a 15-year-old.
But the expectations that came with the success took their toll and three years later she made the shocking decision to ditch tennis for cricket and signed for the Brisbane Heat in the inaugural Women’s Big Bash League.
“Basically, I guess I just had to find myself,” Barty said, looking back on that time of her life.
“I felt like in the early part of my career I was confused and maybe a little lost.”
While cricket gave her “a different take on sport”, the temptation of tennis was never far away and driven by the ambition to taste success at Wimbledon again, she returned after a season away.
The pause worked wonders and she went from strength to strength.
Barty broke through for her first Grand Slam triumph at the French Open in 2019, becoming the first Australian women’s number one in the world since Evonne Goolagong-Cawley and finally winning a cherished Wimbledon crown last year.
She was so dominant that she finished 2021 as the top-ranked player for the third straight year, joining Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Serena Williams and Chris Evert as the only women to achieve this feat.
Barty should have returned to Paris in 2020 to defend her Roland Garros title, but she withdrew over coronavirus fears and picked up her golf clubs instead.
And on a course designed by Greg Norman near Brisbane, she won the Brookwater Golf Club women’s title with an impressive 7 and 5 win in the match play final.
“Is there anything you can’t do?” a social media user asked at the time.
Barty refined her golf game by playing rounds with fellow Grand Slam winner Pat Rafter and her longtime boyfriend Garry Kissick, who has been by her side since 2016 and often posts supportive messages on social media.
They got engaged in November, sparking a frenzy of congratulations from fellow tennis stars.
Barty attributes much of her success to her close-knit team, which includes not only Kissick but also her family and long-time coach Craig Tyzzer, who routinely refers to “we” rather than “me” when talking about her tennis achievements. .
“Everyone is equally important. We are all equal,” she said of her team.
“I mean, the experiences we’ve been able to share together have been remarkable, for my entire team. My family starts with my family, my sisters.
“It is clearly my professional team that puts so much time and energy into my career and helps me achieve my dreams.
“I really can’t thank them enough for the time and effort they put into someone else.”
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