Ash Barty will be the Australian Open’s top women’s seed for the third-straight year as she bids to end the country’s 44-year title drought
Australian Open title favourite Ash Barty hasn’t forgotten the “tough lessons” she learned from defeats at Melbourne Park the past three years after reaching the second week.
The world’s best player returns to her home grand slam with a freshly minted Wimbledon title to her name, to go with the French Open championship she won in 2019.
Barty is the No.1 seed for a third-straight year – a feat she is unfazed about – as she bids to surpass her semi-final run in 2020 that was sandwiched between two other quarter-finals.
In other words, she’s been agonisingly close to achieving what no local has done since Chris O’Neil became the first unseeded women’s player to win the Australian Open in 1978.
Australia’s had a number of great players given some chance of title glory in recent years: Lleyton Hewitt, Pat Rafter, Mark Philippoussis, Sam Stosur, Alicia Molik and Jelena Dokic.
Hewitt famously made the 2005 final, the last time any Australian has gone that far. Before him, it was Pat Cash in 1988.
That significant drought is why Barty has such a deep understanding and appreciation of what it would mean to the country, and her, if she was able to go all the way.
“I can’t do any more than I can try,” she said.
“If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. I just have to hope that everyone understands that I’m giving it my best crack.
“It doesn’t always work out exactly how you want to, but you go about it the right way, you do the right things and try and give yourself the best chance.
“That goes for all the other Aussies as well and everyone else in the draw.”
Barty’s Australian Open semi-final loss two years ago to eventual champion Sofia Kenin remains the toughest of her career, given she went down in two tight sets but had chances to win in the same fashion.
Then last year, after again winning a lead-in title, she charged into the final eight without dropping a set before claiming the opening set 6-1 against Karolina Muchova.
Barty also went a break up in the second set, after which Muchova took a controversial 10-minute medical time-out because her “head was spinning”.
That proved a vicious turning point, with the Czech winning 11 of the last 14 games – and the match.
“You have to be able to take learnings from every experience and that’s certainly been no different here in Australia,” Barty said.
“I’ve had some pretty tough lessons, but also some incredible moments. A few stick out in my brain more than others; both the tough ones and the good ones.
“I’ve been so extremely fortunate here in Australia to have had the opportunity to learn so much. Hopefully, that puts me in good stead for another year and another crack here.”
Barty won last week’s Adelaide singles and doubles titles before withdrawing from Sydney to travel to Melbourne early.
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