It's all about Team Barty, says Ash

New champion quick to credit others for her stunning win at RG19.

 - Kate Battersby

It was a dazed Ashleigh Barty who faced the world’s press just 90 minutes after her Roland-Garros triumph, reflecting on how the “stars aligned” to bring about her title win. Time and again she instinctively used the pronoun “we”. Tennis is nominally an individual sport, but for Barty her success is all about being part of a team.

“At the moment it's too much and a bit out there, really,” smiled 23-year-old Barty, who arrived here as the world No.8 and will rocket to No.2 when the new rankings come out on Monday – the highest-ranked Australian since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1976.

“In this match I just kept saying to myself, ‘I may never get this opportunity ever again, so try and grab it with both hands’,” she said. “For me it was the perfect match. I have an extraordinary group of genuine, authentic people around me. This [win] is just a by-product of all the work that we have done.”

For Barty, the team she is referring to goes way beyond her coach Craig Tyzzer. She has benefited enormously from the mentoring of Ben Crowe, along with friendships with other elite sporting competitors such as surfing’s Stephanie Gilmour. This willingness to think outside the box, in order to find new ways to mine her potential, is as much a component part of her success as her dedication to the physical work all champions must put in.

“This win is a celebration of the journey myself and my team have been on for the last three years,” she said. “I love working with them every single day. They're with me at the hardest times of my life, and in some of the most amazing times.”

It’s well-known that after early doubles success as a teenager – including being runner-up as a 16-year-old at the Australian Open with Casey Dellacqua – Barty took indefinite leave of tennis in 2014. She ended up playing cricket with the Brisbane Heat team, despite having no formal training in the sport, before returning to tennis just prior to her 20th birthday.

As she sat at Roland-Garros on Saturday evening, with the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen gleaming alongside her, Barty had no doubt she could not have scaled the tennis heights without that hiatus from the sport.

Ashleigh Barty©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

“Absolutely not,” she declared. “It was the best decision that I made at the time, and it was an even better one coming back. I needed time to step away and live a normal life, because this tennis life certainly isn't normal. I needed time to grow as a person and mature.

“I was still involved in tennis every day but I missed the competition, the one-on-one battle, the ebbs and flows, the emotions you get from winning and losing matches. They are so unique and you can only get them when you put yourself on the line, becoming vulnerable and trying to do things that no one thinks of.

“It gave me a new perspective in my life and my career. It's brought this new belief – this feeling of belonging at the very top level. I know when I play my best tennis, I can match it against the world's best.”

When the trophy was first in her hands on Court Philippe Chatrier, Barty found a particular name she was looking for… that of Goolagong Cawley, the only previous indigenous Australian to win a Grand Slam. Important new chapters of tennis history have been written with Barty’s win.

There may yet be more to come. The tennis wheel keeps turning, and the sport is never still. Next up there’s a new season approaching on Barty’s favourite surface, grass, meaning Wimbledon. But just for now the newest Grand Slam champion plans on taking just a few days out alongside that team of hers, to stop and smell the heady fragrance of the highest achievement.

Ashleigh Barty©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

“I have to be able to celebrate this with my team,” she resolved. “We’ll take a few days off, and make sure I get my body and mind right so that when I come out to play my next tournament I'm ready to go.”

To think that at the start of this season Ash Barty’s main concern was the fear that she would fall over on the tricky clay. It turns out she needn’t have worried. She didn’t fall.

She stood tall – all 5'7" of her – and emerged as a giant.