CAIRNS, Australia - World No.1 and reigning French Open champion Ashleigh Barty returned to Australia last week after the China Open, and she had a sweet surprise in store for some lucky Queenslanders on Wednesday. 

Barty, an Indigenous tennis ambassador, joined 14-time Grand Slam champion Evonne Goolagong Cawley to pay a surprise visit to 25 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tennis players.

Read more: Barty wins 'The Don' Award, recognized as Australia's top sportsperson in 2019

 “This has been the most magical day, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend time within the community,” Barty said. “To see all of these happy faces, particularly the young kids and how much they enjoy it, that’s what brings a smile to my face.

“Getting to do things like this; an Indigenous tennis trip with Evonne Goolagong Cawley, how incredible is that? It’s been a special opportunity to bring so many people together and to talk through my tennis and my heritage.”

Barty added, “Being able to give back is so important to me, these are the trips I love the most.”

The group of Indigenous youth participate in tennis programs year round in Far North Queensland. Barty and Goolagong Cawley joined the players on court for a tennis lesson at Edmonton Tennis Club before heading to Bentley Park College to be part of a Wuchopperen Deadly Choices Healthy Lifestyle seminar and take part in an ANZ Tennis Hot Shots workshop with students from the school.

Read more: Barty named National Indigenous Tennis Ambassador

“I felt so proud when the kids were so surprised to see Ash,” Evonne Goolagong Cawley said. “It put a big smile on both of our faces. 

“I just know how much they… appreciated this moment. Some of them were [completely] stunned and didn’t know what to say, but as soon as Ash started talking to them, they felt relaxed because Ash helps put people at ease.”

The visit forms part of Tennis Australia’s commitment to continually improving the Indigenous tennis pathway through increasing awareness, access to tennis and increasing engagement with Indigenous tennis communities across the country. 

Earlier this week, Barty also received Australia’s most prestigious sporting honor, ‘The Don’ Award, being recognized as her country’s top athlete in 2019 by Sport Australia Hall of Fame.

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