It took Ashleigh Barty four years to rise to number one.
Barty was a junior virtuoso in tennis as by 15, she was the girls’ singles champion at Wimbledon in 2011.
And with this singles win, you would have thought Barty would have become a sporting elite in her teens, helped along with her reaching three grand slam doubles finals with her best mate Casey Dellaqua.
However at 18, Barty took a break from tennis in 2014 and looked unlikely to return as shortly afterwards she pursued a career in cricket.
Barty played cricket for her home side Brisbane Heat in the Women’s Big Bash League.
The short break for Barty probably was the moment that defined her sporting career, as she fell out of love with tennis and her talent at a young age.
Barty’s coach (since 2016) Craig Tyzzer told the Guardian in 2019 taking a hiatus from tennis “was the best thing she ever did”.
Three years later, Barty returned to tennis after her short stint in cricket.
The break away from tennis certainly did wonders for Barty, as she has come back a stronger, more skilful and rejuvenated player.
“It’s nice to have those few extra things. There are definitely a few other things that we’ve tried to add that we try and add into every match,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I play a bit of a different game style to a lot of other girls and we’re trying to just keep that uniqueness and really work on a few of those things.”
Within only a few weeks into her return in 2016, she improved dramatically and Barty could not believe that she was ranked in the mid-300s.
She attributes this to her recreating and adding some different dimensions to her game that she did not have before or did not use as much at 16.
“Maybe it’s just that I’m a little bit older now, a little bit stronger as well,” Barty continued.
“It’s a bit different when you’re 16 as to when you’re 20. You’re a little bit more developed and mature in your body.”
The tennis world had to wait two years for the return of Barty and boy was it worth it, as she has become the star Australian sport and tennis has been yearning for.
Barty is a sporting athlete who is loved and respected worldwide, because of her public and on-court persona.
For a long time, Australian tennis had lacked a sporting star that the nation were proud of, after the controversial Bernard Tomic years.
Her persona on-court is a durable and calm temperament and these qualities are what will help her to remain at the top.
Whereas fellow Australian men’s player Nick Kyrgios has the talent, this is also often put on the backburner due to ugly confrontations and tantrums on-court.
Off-court, Kyrgios has also made the news for partying at a pub till around 11pm, before an important Wimbledon clash with Rafael Nadal and getting into a heated argument with the umpire during the match.
Also in Kyrgios’ hard court season he was fined US$167,000 due to a violent outburst at the Cincinnati Masters.
Kyrgios has the talent to reach the top, but it's arguable he does not have the full package as a player to get there...and stay there like Barty.
Barty’s on-court persona is also the way she is off-court, as she remains calm, even when she loses and this is what Australians love about her.
For example, after her (2019) Wimbledon defeat to Alison Riske, she said at her press conference “the sun’s still going to come up tomorrow”.
In contrast, Australian tennis great Lleyton Hewitt was a player in his time that you either loved or hated due to his on-court scowls, fist pumps and constant c’mons.
And at the age of 20, he reached world number one - still the youngest player to do so - and the tennis world were shocked, as they did not expect this from a player of Hewitt’s size.
But his speed, faultless tactics, clever shots and never say die attitude in matches all helped to make up for it.
Hewitt won two Grand Slam singles titles including the US Open in 2001 and Wimbledon in 2002 and lost in his only Australian Open final to Marat Safin in 2005.
Also, Roger Federer, who is a longtime friend of Hewitt’s, said that he did not always like the way Hewitt was on-court.
“It annoyed me sometimes because in the beginning it was more crazy than now,” Federer told the Australian.
It’s hard to believe that Barty is still only 23-years-old and with her best years ahead you can only imagine that with her on-court and public persona that she’ll continue to rise to the peak of her powers.
Barty is the true champion, Australian tennis has waited for and because of this, tennis will continue to grow in the country.
The Barty fanbase will continue to get bigger and it is a testament to the high-quality athlete persona Barty shows on-court and off court.