‘Extraordinary’: Tennis world reacts to Ash Barty transformation

Before she could admit it to anyone else, Ash Barty had to admit it to herself.

“It took me a long time to verbalise the fact that I wanted to dare to dream and say I wanted to win this incredible tournament,” Barty said after winning Wimbledon on the weekend.

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Barty’s golden run at the All England Club — where she became the first Australian woman to claim the title since fellow Indigenous star Evonne Goolagong Cawley 41 years ago — was the realisation of a childhood dream.

But it wasn’t one we ever knew about until this grand slam. In the past, Barty has never been one to talk about her goals and identify exactly what she’s chasing. But at Wimbledon this year, she finally felt comfortable enough to tell the world what she wanted.

Barty’s mindset coach Ben Crowe says the Queenslander has always had goals and been highly motivated to achieve them — but she thought verbalising them meant opening herself up to the burden of expectation.

So for the most part, Barty stayed quiet. Until now.

Ash Barty celebrates winning her match against Karolina Pliskova. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

“She had a lot of goals but she saw them as expectations of outcome which we can’t control,” Crowe told Nova’s Fitzy & Wippa on Monday. “That’s the problem with athletes is that they confuse goals with expectations.

“We should all have goals or dreams but what’s really important to realise is that there’s no guarantees in life and if you make it an expectation that will create a distraction, if you like.

“We are so distracted by things we can’t control … If you’re focusing on all of these things you can’t control about wanting to control it, that’s the definition of anxiety.

“Ash has always had that intrinsic belief and desire but she, probably like everyone, had some distractions along the way.

“You identify whatever it is you can’t control and you either accept that or you suffer.”

Barty’s public revelation she was desperate to win Wimbledon represented the very change in attitude Crowe was alluding to.

There’s nothing new about athletes talking “process” over “outcome”, but the thing with Barty is she actually sounds believable when she says the result isn’t what she focuses on.

As broadcaster Catherine Whitaker told The Tennis Podcast before Barty’s final: “This ‘process not outcome’ approach from athletes — it’s the most outcome-based profession imaginable, isn’t it? And yet you’re supposed to have the mindset of ‘process not outcome’. I find it extraordinary.”

Dreams do come trueSource:AFP

Is Barty the new Roger Federer?

Barty’s transformation has been highlighted by tennis commentators during the past two weeks as the world No. 1 got her hands on the prize she craved most.

Before Saturday night’s final, BBC commentator David Law noted there was “a real change in the way Barty talks publicly”, describing it as “infectious” and likening her off-court demeanour to Roger Federer.

There’s nobody obvious in the men’s game stepping up to replacer Federer in terms of global appeal when he’s gone, but Barty is so popular, perhaps she can take over.

“This feels to me like this has been something she’s improved at even in the last year,” Law said of Barty on The Tennis Podcast. “Because it’s gone from feeling like she was using the term ‘we’ and talking about (coach) Craig Tyzzer and the team — that felt a bit like a comfort blanket, that she was saying that so she didn’t have to feel isolated on her own.

“Now it feels like something that’s uplifting her. She sounds totally genuine about the process.

“It is the closest thing I can imagine to Federer in terms of the way she plays and way she talks.

“It is like listening to a Roger Federer now, in terms of her total understanding of what she wants to be in a post-match interview, how she’s going to incorporate her team and how she’s going to make it sound like she loves this sport and loves being out on the road and can’t believe her luck, and it’s not about the result — it’s about everything.

“It’s really infectious and uplifting and I think it takes the weight off her to talk like that.”

Barty chooses to embrace the pressure

Barty broke down after match point.Source:AFP

Whitaker has said previously she’s found the “business-like” Barty a tough person to interview, because she doesn’t give anything away. But the Queenslander is a different person to the one the world fell in love with when she won her first grand slam at the 2019 French Open.

The signs Barty wasn’t going to shy away from chasing her dream were there before the tournament kicked off — namely with a special dress paying tribute to Cawley on the 50th anniversary of her first Wimbledon title.

Whitaker said Barty “embraced the pressure of trying to emulate (Cawley)”, while Law also saw the significance in Barty’s change of approach.

“Her announcing ahead of time that it is her dream to win Wimbledon and to not be afraid to put that out there for everybody to know — that is a clear departure from where she used to be,” Law said.

“I think back less than two years ago, a number of times you (Whitaker) said that you found Ash Barty a really hard interview. I don’t think she would be now.

“I imagine it (interviewing Barty) was like trying to play her. You’re not going to get any mistakes, you’re not going to get any unforced errors because she’s careful and very proficient at what she’s doing.

“That has changed. Wholly, that has changed. She talks with such enjoyment … she breaks it down into loving the sport.”

Tennis analyst Matt Roberts added Barty’s willingness to go public with her Wimbledon dream was indicative of how different she is.

“She’s said out loud … that she has always dreamt of winning Wimbledon and she said in her on-court interview (after her semi-final) that it would be a childhood dream fulfilled if she does win,” Roberts told The Tennis Podcast.

“That is indicative of someone who … is more confident in who she is, not afraid of falling short. I think she might not have said that before because she was perhaps worried that she might fall short. She’s not worried about that anymore, she’s so confident in her own approach to the sport.

“That’s connected with a lot of people. That she has had that courage to lay out her ambitions in front of everyone. I think people respect that.”

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