Tennis: Barty hopes 'tough lessons' can help her win first Australian Open title

Australian Ashleigh Barty during a practice session ahead of the Australian Open on 15 Jan, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MELBOURNE (AFP) - World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty hopes that some "tough lessons" will help propel the home favourite to a first Australian Open title.

The 25-year-old is strongly fancied to be crowned champion in two weeks' time, breaking her duck at a tournament where she has never gone beyond the semi-finals. If she is successful, she would become the first homegrown female champion since Chris O’Neil in 1978.

She fired a warning to the rest of the field by claiming the singles and doubles titles in Adelaide last week and is full of confidence.

Recently engaged to her long-time boyfriend, Barty said she was at ease heading into her home Slam despite the weight of expectation and being top seed.

"I know I say it a lot - regardless of the number next to my name, that doesn't change the way we approach it. Particularly here in Australia, it's exciting," Barty said on Saturday (Jan 15).

Barty won the French Open in 2019 and Wimbledon last year to finish the season as world No. 1 after winning five titles.

It elevated her alongside Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Serena Williams and Chris Evert as the only women to finish as the top-ranked player for three consecutive years.

The humble Australian said she was constantly learning despite being in such distinguished company.

"Each and every match I learn. Every experience I learn from, whether it's good, bad or indifferent," she said.

"You have to be able to take learnings from every experience. That's certainly been no different here in Australia - I've had some pretty tough lessons, but also some incredible moments.

"Hopefully that puts me in good stead for another year, another crack here, and we just keep going."

Barty begins her tournament against Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko, a qualifier who is nevertheless experienced, winning four WTA titles.

The Australian admitted it was a tough start.

"She obviously knows how to win big matches, she just knows how to play in the big moments. She knows how to navigate and win matches, navigate through some tough times," said Barty.

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