Ash Barty sacrifices homecoming with Olympic gold her top priority

w ^hen Ash Barty sat down with her team just after the Australian Open to work out her plans for the coming months, two things sat at the top of her priority list; Wimbledon and the Olympics. One down, one to go.

Barty’s win over Karolina Pliskova on Saturday gave her a second grand slam victory and made her the first Australian woman to win the title here since Evonne Goolagong in 1980. The 25-year-old joins a long list of Australian winners, many of whom – including Rod Laver, John Newcombe and Goolagong herself – were quick to congratulate the newest member of the club.

In non-pandemic times, Barty would doubtless have spent much of last night celebrating at the nearby Aussie House – a house Tennis Australia rents each year, which hosts players, Australian legends of the game and stages promotional events. That possibility was ruled out by the Covid-19 regulations, but now she is out of the bubble, Barty will be able to socialise outside of her hotel, a rare dose of normality in the past 18 月.

Barty will also use the next few days to allow the enormity of what she has achieved to sink in but she’ll quickly be back on the road, headed for Tokyo and an opportunity to become the first Australian player to win a singles gold medal in tennis. Alicia Molik, who won the bronze in 2004, is the only woman to win a singles medal but if she’s not emotionally spent, Barty has a great chance.

“I’m extremely proud to be on my first Olympic team,“ 她说. “And I know we’re united, 490-odd Aussie Olympians going over as one team. I’m excited to be a part of that. And I’m excited to do Australians proud, as every other athlete will. I’m certainly looking forward to that experience.”

The Olympic event begins on 24 七月, which means a quick turnaround for Barty. But given her form, and the way she has regained full fitness after the injury she suffered at the French Open, few would bet against her taking a medal, if not winning the whole thing.

去年, when the tennis circuit resumed in August after a five-month hiatus, Barty chose not to travel, saying she had not had enough chance to train in the period when Covid-19 forced a lockdown. It was a brave move for a world No 1, who had to sit and watch while Naomi Osaka won the US Open and Iga Swiatek picked up the French Open title.

But Barty has always been willing to do things her own way, just as she did when she stepped away from the game as an 18-year-old struggling with depression, using the time (when she played top-level cricket) to get better and recharge the batteries, knowing it would prolong her tennis career.

If winning Wimbledon was the first step in what she hopes will be a golden year, it was also the reward for a commitment she made, after the Australian Open finished in late February, to leave Australia and embark on a long trip, eight months away from home. With travel in and out of Australia heavily restricted due to the pandemic, she will not return home to Queensland until around October, but typically, she just sees it as something she needs to do.

“当然, there are sacrifices, but I think everyone in their profession over the last 12 或者 18 months have had to make sacrifices of some sort,“ 她说, with her usual perspective. “The world has changed, without a doubt, but I feel incredibly grateful.

“是的, the surroundings that we’re in at the moment with our bubbles and the quarantine and the rules and regulations are different, but it’s not any better or any worse. It kind of just is what it is. And it’s giving us an opportunity to do what we love. So there are certainly no complaints from me. But it’s this whole year has been an incredible, incredible adventure so far. We’ve still got a little bit to go, but we’re looking forward to all of it.”

If Barty is able to bring back a medal from Tokyo, which would make her even more of a national hero, she will then head straight to the US Open, chasing what would be the third leg of a career Grand Slam of all four majors. Her all-court game is perfectly suited to any surface, be it hard courts, grass or clay, and the confidence of her win at Wimbledon will surely take her a long way.