After a busy year of travel Ash Barty launches her summer assault close to home in Brisbane
HER commitment to coming home more often was the cornerstone of her breakthrough year on the WTA Tour but you’ll forgive Ashleigh Barty for revelling in some creature comforts during the Brisbane International starting on Sunday.
In a star-studded field to contest the women’s singles Barty enters the week not as a wildcard or a qualifier but among their company as the No.17-ranked female tennis player on the planet.
Twelve months ago Barty gave a portent of what was to come by pushing then world No.1 Angelique Kerber to three sets at Pat Rafter Arena before setting off on a gruelling schedule that saw he take more than 70 flights over the course of the year.
It was a plan devised to stave off the homesickness that saw her walk away from the game completely for almost 18 months and one that Barty is adamant was crucial in her rapid ascension up the world rankings.
With a semi-permanent base close to her family in Ipswich and four dogs that get billeted out while she is on tour, it will be life’s simple luxuries – and not spending time in airports – that the 23-year-old will relish ahead of a busy summer schedule.
“I just love coming home, especially this tournament where I’m actually at home,” Barty told foxsports.com.au.
“Drive myself in, sleep in my own bed… playing the tournament’s pretty cool.
“I’m very much a home-body so being home with my family and my dogs (makes me happy).
“I promised myself that if I ever played again I’d make an effort to be home more often.
“It would mean more travel, more time in the air but I was able to do that this year and it was 10,000 times better.”
Estimating she took more than 70 international and domestic flights over the course of the year, Barty has had to find ways to occupy her mind while on planes or waiting in airports and has a surprising go-to.
“I’m a sucker for a Disney movie,” said Barty. “Tarzan is my ultimate favourite.
“The Family/Kids section is the first one I go to (on the plane).
“I watch that many movies as it is, you have a lot of time to kill when you’re on the road when you’re resting and don’t want to be just staring at the ceiling.
“A lot of movies, a lot of TV series, read a lot, time-consuming things that keep your brain ticking over.
“I was over 70 (flights) for the year, so there were a few with connections and what-not. There weren’t many times where I didn’t have 7-10 days where I wasn’t flying.”
Given she is the hometown hero and the highest-ranked Australian tennis player among both men and women at present, there will be a heightened level of expectation on Barty at Brisbane this year but it’s a status she is embracing.
“It will be a different set of eyes looking at me this time but pressure’s a privilege,” said Barty, who has never progressed beyond the Round of 16 at Brisbane.
“We’ve been able to have a really fantastic year this year to put ourselves in a position where I get to go out there and try and play my best for me and my team, my family, the Australian fans and public and just give it a real red-hot crack.”