World #1 Ashleigh Barty may also be the nicest person in women’s tennis (Photo by Carine06 CC By 2.0 license)
It’s lonely at the top, or so the saying goes. They also suggest that there’s an exception to every rule, so perhaps that explains the anomaly that is Ashleigh Barty. The world’s No. 1 women’s tennis player, whenever there’s a major tournament on the horizon, the best sportsbooks online will establish Barty as the one to beat.
Barty has won a WTA-best five titles during the 2021 season. She’s posted tournament victories in the Yarra Valley Classic, the Miami Open, the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix and the Western & Southern Open, as well as her Grand Slam win at Wimbledon.
However, as great a talent as she is on court, the Australian star is also known around tennis circles for courting favor with her opponent simply by providing a warm and embracing presence.
Even though just about every player has come out second-best in a match against Barty, it’s easy for them to set aside that straight set loss when they’re showered with praise by the player who just beat them.
“Every time I lose to her, I can’t be mad because she’s such a nice person,” American tennis player Shelby Rogers said after upsetting Barty in the U.S. Open. “It’s like, ‘Man, she just kicked my butt.’ Then it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re going to find it one day.”
“She’s always encouraging to everybody around her. She brings up the energy wherever she goes.”
With Australia’s strict COVID-19 quarantine rules, Barty spent the entire eight months of the tennis tour season on the road. “That’s insane,” Rogers said. “I mean, she’s resetting on the road.
“She’s worked through some injuries on the road. She’s won five titles. She’s remained No. 1. I mean, this girl is everything every player wants to be.”
Robert Barty remembers when his daughter took up tennis at the age of four. Her talent was obvious from the first time Ashleigh picked up a racquet. She started working with coach Jim Joyce in West Brisbane. But as much as she learned how to hit a powerful forehand, there were other powerful forces at work, helping to shape young Barty into the person she is today.
“Jim had four criteria, to be a nice person, to have fun, to be respected and respect others, and if you can play tennis after that it would be a bonus,” Barty’s father explained to ABC Australia.
Embracing those concepts, the character traits Barty was developing would stay with her as she rose up the tennis ladder to become the world’s best player.
“Her tennis achievements are obvious but we are most proud of the way she conducts herself, in tennis and in life,” Barty’s father said. “The way Ash treats her family, her friends, her team and anyone around her is a reflection of what a wonderful girl she is.”
Culture Plays A Role
Barty has always embraced her heritage as a Ngaragu Indigenous Australian and the culture of her people also speaks to her humble and embracing way of living life.
“Part of our culture is genuine respect and respecting your elders and respecting your other mob,” Kieran Gibbs, a sports coordinator at South West Indigenous Network, explained to The Guardian. “It is about remembering who you are, and what you are and displaying that every day. Ash is showing who we are to the world.”
Retired Australian tennis star Todd Woodbrige also believes a good chunk of the credit for Barty’s personable nature must be attributed to Robert and Josie, her parents.
“She always had what I call a placid nature,” Woodbridge said. “What she has been blessed with is having parents who have handled her almost perfectly, supported her and guided her, and kept pressure away from her as much as possible.”
American Shelby Rogers counts Barty as her favorite person on tour (Photo by Carine06 CC by 2.0 license)
Some kind words and a warm smile can go a long way toward brightening someone’s day and Barty has as much a knack for delivering that as she does a baseline winner.
“She is one of the most professional people I’ve ever met in my life, as well as a good person, a funny individual,” Rogers said. “Just refreshing to see. She’s super down to earth.
“She is one of my favorite people. Any time I get to give her a hug, I try to take the moment.”