Recipe for success: Barty’s overseas grand slam preparation brought Down Under
Ash Barty has adapted her preparation for this year’s Australian Open to align with a strategy that has brought her great success at the other three grand slams in recent years.
After completing a stunning double at the Adelaide International on Sunday, the 25-year-old opted to withdraw from the Sydney Tennis Classic, which began on Monday.
Seeking to become the first Australian since Chris O’Neil in 1978 to succeed in their home grand slam, the world No.1 will instead train and freshen up in Melbourne this week.
World No.1 Ash Barty is headed straight for Melbourne.Credit:Getty Images
Barty, who claimed her 14th WTA Tour singles title in dazzling fashion before partnering Storm Sanders to doubles success in Adelaide, feels in fine fettle leading into the Australian Open.
“I feel good leading up to an Australian Open, like I have every year,” she said.
“Each and every preparation is unique. Each and every preparation is different. So we take it for what comes and what it is, move on, try to do the best that we can in every opportunity, whether that is here in Adelaide, or it’s in Melbourne.
“It has absolutely no effect on the way that I prepare or the way I’m thinking leading forward, just because it is a grand slam. We look forward, we do what we can, then we see how we go.”
It will be the first time since 2014, when Barty was ranked 155 and yet to take a sabbatical from tennis, that she has not competed in an event the week prior to the Australian Open.
But it aligns with the habits that have brought the reigning Wimbledon champion great success internationally since she emerged as a legitimate contender at major level in 2018.
Barty has played in Australia every week of the summer since her return to the circuit in 2016, mindful that January presented her with an opportunity to play around the country.
The only capital cities she has not played in throughout this time are those in the territories, with neither Canberra nor Darwin hosting WTA Tour events.
The 25-year-old did not have the luxury of a rest between her success in her return to tennis last February after a lengthy break in the Yarra Valley Classic and the Australian Open.
But last summer was unusual, given the circumstances of the pandemic, with the Australian Open delayed to February and instead starting in the second week of the summer swing.
An opening round loss to American Jennifer Brady at home in Brisbane to start the 2020 season saw the Queenslander travel to Adelaide for more match play.
She claimed her first title on home soil at Memorial Drive before reaching the semi-finals in her best Australian Open to date when beaten 7-6 (6) 7-5 by eventual champion Sofia Kenin.
The last time Barty played a tournament in the week before a grand slam outside of Australia was the week prior to Wimbledon in 2018.
Since then, her preference has been to acclimatise to the conditions in London, Paris and New York, instead of honing her game in smaller preparatory tournaments.
While her absence from the Sydney Tennis Classic is a blow to a tournament, which also lost 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek, Barty’s participation was never assured.
Effectively, it depended on how she fared in Adelaide, with the official reason for her withdrawal listed on the tournament draw sheet as “change of schedule”.
Victories over rising American star CoCo Gauff, fellow grand slam winners Swiatek and Kenin and a triumph in the final over world No.13 Elena Rybakina in the final proved sufficient for the Brisbane resident to head to Melbourne with confidence.
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