When Ash Barty looks back on 2019, she will no doubt do so with a smile. “It has been an incredible year,” she tells Future Women. “I am so proud of my team and I for what we have achieved.”
In case you haven’t been following Barty’s meteoric rise to the top of the tennis world, we’ll recap those achievements. The 23-year-old tennis player, and face of Rado watches, from Ipswich in Queensland is now ranked world number one – only the second Australian woman to hold the title since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1976 (more on her later).
This year Barty also became Australia’s first French Open champion since Margaret Court’s victory in 1973 when she claimed her first Grand Slam – and took home $6.4m in prize money after winning the hotly contested WTA Finals in Shenzhen. That’s the largest cheque in tennis history. She counts these wins as her “biggest 2019 highlights”, admitting that “both moments felt surreal”.
Barty isn’t your average world champion. For a start, she is incredibly modest and humble (“there is definitely more attention on me now and I am busier… but the way I live my life and the things I love doing haven’t changed”) and never fails to thank those around her for the part they have played in her success. Especially her family (mum Josie, dad Robert and two sisters Ali and Sara) whom she admits she misses dreadfully when she’s away playing in tournaments.
“Being a tennis player and on the road for 30 or 40 weeks of the year is tough, especially for a homebody like me who is very close to my family,” she says. “My team become my family on the road. Not only do they help me be the best I can be professionally, but they are close friends and we have a good laugh together. Having great people with me on the road and FaceTime – I couldn’t live without it! I call my niece and nephew every day when I am away from home, I love hearing about their day and seeing them. It doesn’t matter if I win or lose, they love talking to me just the same.”
Another person Barty turns to for support is fellow Indigenous sportswomen (and friend) Cawley, who is “an amazing person, on and off the tennis court”. The 23-year-old says “her tennis achievements are incredible, but what she has done for the Indigenous community is even more inspiring”.
While Barty’s 2019 has been unforgettable for tennis fans, it wasn’t always this way. She took the difficult decision to step away from tennis – a game she had played since she was four – and turn to cricket in 2014 when things weren’t going so well on court. She ended up playing for the Brisbane Heat in the Women’s Big Bash League. Again, it was Cawley who championed her.
“When I decided to stop playing a few years ago she sent me a message straight away saying, ‘good decision darl’,” the tennis champion explains. “She has always been there for me as a mentor and a friend, I feel grateful to have her support.”
“Remember that everyone has their own journey and there is no one path to achieving your goals.”
Since picking up a tennis racquet again in 2016 (something which Barty credits a friend for encouraging her to do), she hasn’t looked back. “My team and I have a pre-match routine which seems to work for us,” she explains. “I have a practice hit on court a few hours before a match with a hitting partner, then I warm up with my Strength & Conditioning coach which involves active mobility and usually a kick of the AFL footy.”
Now that the wins are becoming more regular, how does she celebrate? “It is sometimes hard to, as we often have to travel straight to the next tournament and play again,” she says. “When I am able to, I love having a nice dinner and a few drinks to celebrate with my team. After the French Open I was lucky enough to have a few days off to go and play golf with my coach at a beautiful course (The Belfry) in England. If I can fit in a round of golf on my day off I definitely try and make that happen.”
The biggest lesson the last 12 months has taught her? “Believe in yourself. Put your hopes and dreams into the universe and see what happens. Remember that everyone has their own journey and there is no one path to achieving your goals. As long as you are happy and enjoying what you do that is the most important thing.”
Rado Watches is a proud supporter of Ash Barty, through its YoungStars programme. To mark Barty’s world number one ranking at the age of just 23, they have created the 36 mm Rado HyperChrome Ashleigh Barty Limited Edition. Find out more here.
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