Barty ready to make fresh Paris memories

 - Chris Oddo

Aussie returns to Roland-Garros looking to rekindle the magic that made her a major champion in 2019

Ashleigh Barty, Roland Garros 2021, practice© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

Ashleigh Barty’s rise to prominence happened in Paris in 2019, but as the world No.1 prepares for Roland-Garros just two years later, she admits that her thrilling run to her maiden Grand Slam title seems like a distant memory. 

“Honestly it feels like a lifetime ago,” the 25-year-old Queenslander told reporters on Friday.

“I think coming back to the site here at Roland-Garros is obviously pretty special, pretty cool to be able to walk onto Chatrier and have so many memories kind of come flooding back. A lot of it I also don't remember, and feels like it was such a long time ago.”

For those who, like Barty, may be fuzzy on the details, the Aussie was an absolute tour de force on the terre battue in 2019. 

“I think she just gave me a lesson today,” Marketa Vondrousova, her victim in the final, deadpanned at the time. 

The talented Czech wasn’t the only one who received a schooling. 

“Her already good serve, she was feeling very free and able to do whatever she wanted, hitting her spots,” said Madison Keys, who lost to Barty in the quarter-finals that year. “Her game is obviously very suited for clay.” 

In five previous appearances in Paris, Barty had never been beyond the second round, but all the ingredients of her cleverly-crafted game finally marinated into a delectable clay-court stew in 2019. Spicy slice, meaty forehands and a peppery serve that seemed to always find its mark. 

Since that dreamy fortnight, Barty has emerged as one of the premier clay-courters in the sport. A woman who entered 2019 with a 10-11 record on the surface returns to Roland-Garros having won 20 of her last 23 on the clay. 

Perhaps surface doesn’t matter so much for Barty - she’s just good at tennis. 

“I feel like she is the perfect No.1, she has the game to play on clay, on grass,” says Tunisian world No.26 Ons Jabeur, who has known Barty since their junior days. “You can just put her on the street, she can play good."

Ashleigh Barty, Roland Garros 2021, practice© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

Barty has been on a roll this spring, going 13-3 on clay with a title in Stuttgart and a final in Madrid. When her body started to feel the strain of playing 16 matches in a month - a good problem to have, Barty likes to say - she retired during her Rome quarter-final and focused her attention on getting back to full fitness. 

Barty and her team checked into a quiet resort in the south of France and focused on recharging her batteries. 

“We were at a very small club down there which for me was perfect,” she said. “I felt like we were able to do exactly what we wanted on court, we were able to control loads and make sure my body was feeling 100 per cent.”  

Refreshed and reconnecting with the magic of her greatest professional achievement in Paris, Barty is setting her sights on making a fresh batch of Roland-Garros memories. 

“For us this week it's a clean slate, a fresh start,” she said. “It's hard to take too much from that tournament back in 2019, but we are very excited to be back and have another opportunity to play here at Roland-Garros. It's a special place. It holds a very special place in my heart and we are very excited to start again.”