SHENZHEN, China - World No.1 Ashleigh Barty joins the WTA Insider Podcast to reflect on her phenomenal 2019 campaign that propelled her to finish atop the Porsche Race to Shenzhen by finishing at No.1 on the Leaderboard at the end of the regular season.
Each of the 56 tournaments (52 WTA events plus the four Grand Slams) leading into the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen represents one lap on the Porsche Race to Shenzhen, spread across 29 countries and regions. Throughout the 2019 season, Barty has amassed 6,476 points from 14 laps (i.e. tournaments), with her nearest rival Karolina Pliskova finishing second with 5,315 points.
Barty finished the regular season with the most match-wins on tour, compiling a 52-11 record and was one of just two women to capture three titles on three different surfaces. In addition to capturing her maiden major at Roland Garros and her first Premier Mandatory title at the Miami Open, Barty's season was driven by a level of consistency across all surfaces that was second to none. The 23-year-old was the only player on tour to make the Round of 16 or better at the eight biggest events of the regular season: Australian Open (quarterfinals), Indian Wells (Round of 16), Miami (Champion), Madrid (quarterfinals), Roland Garros (Champion), Wimbledon (Round of 16), US Open (Round of 16), and Beijing (Finalist).
"An incredible season," Barty said on the WTA Insider Podcast ahead of the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen, where she has qualified in singles for the first time. "There were so many highlights throughout and it's just been really nice to have consistency across all surfaces, all continents, and really be consistent throughout."
Hear Barty reveal the secrets and turning points of her outstanding 2019 season in the Porsche Race to Shenzhen Podium Podcast below:
WTA Insider: I want to take you back to end of 2018. What were your thoughts coming off that great win at the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai?
Barty: I think that tournament in Zhuhai was a really important one to solidify what really was a fantastic 2018. I felt like for me that was a bit of a bonus week making into Zhuhai, and to come away with the win with some thanks to Caroline Garcia helping me through to get through to the semis, it just felt like it led into a really, really healthy pre-season.
We had time to rest and reflect and then I was eager to really come out and start the Australian summer well. I think for us Aussies, it's always exciting being able to play the first month of the tour at home. I think it was just a really nice transition of a good year into a really good offseason and then get stuck into 2019.
WTA Insider: What were your realistic goals for 2019 and what were your aspirational goals?
Barty: I wrote down a few specifics at the start of the year of certain matchups that I would have liked to have changed the head-to-head. And a few ranking goals and a few general goals as well.
But I think for me, a goal of mine this year was to break into the Top 10 and really feel like I could solidify my spot in the Top 10 and almost turn myself into a Top 10 player with consistency across the board. But it kind of ballooned out pretty quickly from there and we had an exceptional middle part of the year through the European season.
I think that for me was really important, to find my feet on the clay early on in Madrid and then had a really, really good tournament there. I think that really kickstarted my European summer.
WTA Insider: To win the Porsche Race to Shenzhen you have to be consistent. It's not about just having a good two weeks. What has been the key to getting that consistency and level up into a Top 10 player?
Barty: I think it was a schedule that we set at the start of the year without too many changes. I know that we wanted to prioritize certain weeks, we wanted to really prioritize Slams, but also knowing that I was going to put myself forward and be available for Fed Cup, change the schedule a little bit with how many tournaments we were gonna play.
But all in all, it felt like we just wanted to make sure that we were ready for every single event. I don't think there were too many matches this year where I've walked off the court disappointed with my efforts or anything like that. So I think that was the best thing, the most pleasing thing was that every single match this year, we were able to give it our all and really try and be ready to go.
I felt like our schedule this year was awesome. There was room to add tournaments in if we needed, but there was also room for a lot of rest to make sure that I was well prepared for the ones that we wanted to target.
WTA Insider: One of the hallmarks of your season was your ability to bounceback from tough losses quite easily. You had a tough loss to Petra Kvitova in the final of Sydney, then made your first Slam quarterfinal at the Australian Open. You had a tough loss to Elina Svitolina in Indian Wells and went on to win Miami.
Barty: I think it's about putting it all into perspective and to not let the highs get too high and the lows get too low.
There were different times of the year where losses took a little bit longer to get over. I think that particularly that Indian Wells loss to Svitolina took a couple of days to get over. But then it was about starting Miami fresh and trying to give myself an opportunity to, at that time, crack into the Top 10 again.
I think overall it's more about the preparation and the things that we go through prior to matches to make sure that when I do play a match, it's about going out there and competing and enjoying it. That's when I play my best tennis, when I'm having fun and in a way, not taking it too seriously and relaxing a little bit and trying to bring some enjoyment into it.
WTA Insider: How big was that Miami win for you? It wasn't an easy draw and you played incredibly well throughout the event. What was the significance of that title in your career?
Barty: I think that was probably one of the turning points, in the sense that for the whole two week event, I felt like I played really solid tennis throughout. I had, I think three or four Top 10 wins and played a really good level consistently every single match and felt like I really earned my spot in the final. And then to play a final like that against Kaja (Pliskova) was really pleasing.
Overall it was a bit of a hallmark week for us in our calendar. It kind of set us up to go into the European summer and play with some real freedom and try and do the best that we could.
Then coming back home to Australia, everything had really changed pretty rapidly. An incredible season. There were so many highlights throughout and it's just been really nice to have consistency across all surfaces, all continents, and really be consistent throughout.
WTA Insider: It would have been understandable after Miami for you to have a letdown over the clay season. How different was your mentality going into the clay season compared to years past?
Barty: In Madrid, it was a bit of an up and down tournament, in a way. I felt like the first couple of matches were a bit scratchy and I had to really kind of work and find my feet.
But then the match in the quarterfinal against Sim (Halep) I felt was a little bit of a turning point. Even though I lost the match, it was five and five, had a lot of opportunities and felt like I was more than in it against the best clay-courter in women's tennis at the moment. So I think for me that match was a was a little bit of an eye-opener, knowing that I could hang with the best.
Then moving into Paris, it was about just trying to stay fresh and in the end still play that kind of aggressive mindset and play my brand of tennis and not get stuck into a clay-court brand that I'm not overly familiar with or comfortable with.
So it was important for me to still play my style of tennis and that Ash Barty brand of tennis, seeing as it can work on a clay court. I think it was about finding that balance.
WTA Insider: We've seen the Ash Barty brand of tennis succeed on hard court and grass. So what was the adjustment you made on clay this year?
Barty: I think more than anything, it was about how I approached it mentally. Actually trusting myself and knowing that it could work, it was just about giving myself the opportunity and hanging around long enough to allow it to work.
But it was a really, really exciting two or three month period, coming through Miami, through the clay then and into the grass. It was really exciting.
WTA Insider: You take over the No.1 a few weeks later after winning your third title of the season at Birmingham. Once you took over the top spot on the Porsche Race to Shenzhen Leaderboard, you never let go. What were the challenges of the second half of the season?
Barty: I think probably one of the most challenging parts was allowing myself to rest and recover after Wimbledon and kind of letting the dust settle a little bit and trusting my team, knowing that we needed to take a little bit of extra time off to give myself the best chance to be ready for the season. Knowing that I'd go into the US summer a little bit underdone, but trusting that come US Open time we'd be ready to go.
I think it was really nice to win a few matches in Cincinnati. I think that was really important. And then go and play well in the U.S. Open was great, again to make another second week of a Slam.
In the past I've always played well in China the last couple of years. So it was exciting to go back to Wuhan and play well there. And then going to Beijing and playing well there, kind of for the first time, having not really played there the last two years.
WTA Insider: What are you most proud of about winning the Porsche Race to Shenzhen?
Barty: I think I'm just extremely proud of myself and for my team because we've put so much hard work into this. It's been a journey not only this year, but probably over the last four or five years, having stepped away from the game and then coming back and making a few of the tougher decisions. But I think I have no regrets.
We've worked so hard to try and get to this point and the stars have aligned for us this year. I think overall, we've enjoyed every minute, the ups and the downs and all that comes with it.
So I think it's exciting to now try and finish off this year with the week here in the WTA Finals. Looking forward to testing myself against the world's best and seeing how we go.