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Mag By Craig Gabriel



We hear of so much negativity in tennis about tennis and of tennis. There is criticism of this event or that player or some other format and what not. Criticism is easy to do. I put my hand up, yup I can get into that vein just like the next person. But, not enough is heard about the good aspects. The nice people in tennis. I want to correct that right here and write about a young Australian with cherubic features and a personality to go along with those features.

Ashleigh Barty is one of the nicest tennis players you could ever hope to meet. She defines humble, she could be the next-door neighbour you have a chat with over the fence. She is easy going, she is obliging, and she is as Aussie as they come.

The 22-year-old was an outstanding junior. She won junior Wimbledon and tennis thirsty Australia jumped on the bandwagon showering her with attention. Ash was shy, she was only 15 and she recoiled from the attention. She was not sure how to manage the expectations and it was tough to get much out of her.

Slowly the bud began to open. One of her closest friends on the tour became Casey Dellacqua who was like a big sister and the two formed a formidable doubles team but for Ash things were not quite right in tennis. She had started so young and all that attention had somewhat of a detrimental effect. Some may have classed it as burnout. 

She surprised the Australian tennis community when she decided to walk away from tennis. Her exit was a brave decision and good luck to her.

She eventually turned her attention to cricket and played for the Brisbane Heat in her original home town, Brisbane and did incredibly well in the women’s Big Bash League. 

Ash is just Aussie through and through. She is as Aussie as Vegemite and like most Aussies she has always loved her sport, obviously cricket, definitely football (the Aussie kind) and fishing. Ash can talk the hind legs of a donkey. She is a breath of fresh air.

I have never met a person who has had a bad word to say about Ash Barty. You can’t help but like her and she makes friends so easily and in tru blu Aussie style, she will abbreviate someone’s name and speak of them as if you have also known them for ages. She does it in interviews as well and it is just precious.

Her parents Robert and Josie are the perfect tennis parents and for Ash her indigenous heritage, which comes from her father’s side (Ngarigo indigenous Australian) is very important to her.

She is Tennis Australia’s National Indigenous Tennis Ambassador and works to promote more indigenous participation in the sport. She launched the National Indigenous Carnival late last year and as part of that visited Darwin and the Tivi Islands (the very northern part of the nation) with legendary Evonne Goolagong Cawley, someone she takes inspiration from and a person I grew up with at the same tennis club.

“Giving back to my community is very important to me and I hope to inspire many more Indigenous kids to get active and enjoy their tennis,” she said to an Australian newspaper. “Evonne has absolutely created the pathway, not just for indigenous boys and girls, but kids across the nation.

“She is just such a special person, and I’m incredibly lucky to share heritage with her. That is a very special part of me that I'm extremely proud of, and I know she is as well. To be able to call her a friend is even better.”

That break from tennis to play cricket was probably the best thing she could have done. She suggests that as well because she was able to rekindle her love of tennis. Now, on court, she has complete belief in herself. She is not in awe of any player across the net and nor should she be. She is knocking on the door of the world’s top ten; at the start of the year I suggested around April or so she would be in the top ten. At the time of writing she is three places away.

“When I”m playing well, I”m really enjoying myself out on court and that’s all I can ask of every match. If I win it’s a bonus, if I lose the sun still comes up the next day and it’s all good,” Mis Barty said at the Australian Open.

But this is not so much about Ash Barty’s tennis, we know she is a fantastic player having reached her first quarterfinal at the majors at last month’s Australian Open and is twice a winner of Australia’s highest tennis award the Newcombe Medal for outstanding on-court achievements.

Ash now lives in Melbourne, she loves having her own place and like most Melbourne-ites she is a coffee lover and her coffee should be short and strong. She would have to have an affinity with the cafés in Paris. But unlike her other friend Sam Stosur she doesn’t travel with her own coffee machine. Where’s George Clooney when you need him?

Ash Barty is also very much a home body. She would like nothing more than being at home sipping that coffee surrounded by her four dogs and her golfing boyfriend Garry Kissick.