French Open 2019

Barty's next goal - Top ranking

Decade of 'ebbs and flows' ends in Slam win which she hopes will spur Aboriginal youth

PARIS • Ashleigh Barty's first trip to Paris was nothing short of a nightmare but 10 years later, after one of the more remarkable tennis journeys, she woke up serenely in the French capital yesterday as the queen of Roland Garros.

The then 13-year-old got her first taste of life on the road as part of a group of fellow Australian junior hopefuls competing at an international event.

That experience could not have been further removed from the past fortnight where the 23-year-old arrived as a title contender and left with the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen, the first from her country to do so since 24-time record Grand Slam winner Margaret Court in 1973.

In 1976, though, Britain's Sue Barker was mistakenly credited on the trophy as Australian after she won the French Open.

But "the ebbs and flows" is what helped to forge Barty's winning mentality. She told reporters: "It was special to have that pop up in my mind over the last two weeks.

"It's the decade of my career. I remember that was my first international tournament, my first taste of international tennis and it was terrible.

"It was scary, I hated every minute. But what a journey that I have been on. Especially the last three or four years."

ROLLER COASTER

It was scary, I hated every minute. But what a journey that I have been on. Especially the last three or four years.

ASHLEIGH BARTY, recounting the tough start to her career and the gradual success of the last few years.

Her two-year hiatus from tennis, when she impressed as an all-rounder for cricket team Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash League, actually helped Barty rekindle her love for the sport.

With coach Craig Tyzzer encouraging her to play the intuitive sort of tennis that helped her win the junior Wimbledon event in 2011, she has blossomed into one of the most watchable and likeable players on the Tour.

Fellow Australian Nick Kyrgios was one of the first to congratulate her on her 6-1, 6-3 victory over Czech Marketa Vondrousova - superimposing the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen on an old photo of a tiny Barty holding a junior trophy.

Her achievement was also hailed by her peers from Madison Keys to Petra Kvitova to Court, but in typically humble fashion, the Queenslander felt that while it was "very kind of them to compliment my game, it's also a compliment to my team".

Barty added: "It's incredibly kind... especially from people that you see every single week and most weeks of the year."

As well as being an icon back home, her victory also resonated with the country's indigenous population, just as Evonne Goolagong's seven Grand Slam triumphs did.

Her father, Robert, is an indigenous Australian, and she is hoping her maiden Grand Slam triumph will now open more sporting doors for Aboriginal talent.

Barty, who will jump six spots to world No. 2 today, is now being tipped to emulate "idol" Goolagong by reaching tennis' summit and after becoming the ninth different woman to win a singles title in the last 10 Grand Slams, that is her "next goal".

She said: "That's kind of the next point, the next situation I could see myself in. Being No. 2 in the world is incredible and something I never dreamt of as a child, we'll keep chipping away and try our best to get to No. 1."

With her serve-and-volley game and grass being her favourite surface, that possibility could become a reality at Wimbledon in the coming weeks.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, NY TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2019, with the headline 'Barty's next goal - Top ranking'. Print Edition | Subscribe