World No.1 Ashleigh Barty could not have asked for a better start of the season. Playing her first tournament since the US Open, the 25-year-old swept the singles and doubles titles at the Adelaide International, doing so in dominant fashion.
En route to her 14th singles title, Barty ran through a draw that included Coco Gauff, Sofia Kenin, defending champion Iga Swiatek, and Elena Rybakina in the final. After losing her only set of the tournament to Gauff in the second round, Barty flipped a switch and found her serve.
Remarkably, Barty would finish the tournament by winning 35 consecutive service games. After coming back form a set and a break down to defeat Gauff, Barty would face just four break points for the rest of the tournament. Against Kenin in the quarterfinals, she fired a personal best 17 aces.
"I felt my serve was a bit of a dominant factor this week," Barty told WTA Insider. "I think through that first match with Coco I struggled with rhythm a bit and found it towards the end of the second set and start of the third. Then I think I did a good job through the rest of those matches of controlling my service games, controlling the tempo of the match with my service games."
Supreme Strike Rate.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) January 9, 2022
Since the start of 2019, @ashbarty has played 32 tournaments, winning 11 titles, yielding a success rate of 34.4%
The next best over that span is Naomi Osaka at 16.7%. pic.twitter.com/TVT5J7AIM2
Barty spoke with WTA Insider from Adelaide to discuss her doubts going into the 2022 season, what's she's chasing this year, and how it felt to get back into the swing of things for the first time since September.
WTA Insider: What's your biggest takeaway from this title run in Adelaide?
Barty: What I take the most is the fact that we were able to be really present and have a lot of clarity in each and every match. I felt like tactically I was able to do what Tyzz and I wanted to do this week. I had that really fresh mindset and just played with freedom and played my brand of tennis. When my back was against the wall I was able to produce some pretty good stuff.
WTA Insider: Did you have doubts coming into the tournament"
Barty: Of course. I think there's always doubts in the unknown. It's obviously a fresh season and it's been a couple months since I've played a competitive match. But you have to take that with a grain of salt and just accept that's the position that you're in. Having a pretty simple mindset this week has been brilliant and knowing that if I did that in the right way I was going to give myself opportunities to play plenty of matches this week.
WTA Insider: From a tennis point of view, what were you most pleased with this week?
Barty: I felt my serve was a bit of a dominant factor this week. I think through that first match with Coco I struggled with rhythm a bit and found it towards the end of the second set and start of the third. Then I think I did a good job through the rest of those matches of controlling my service games, controlling the tempo of the match with my service games.
All in all, going unbroken for a few matches is really good. It was just a really clean way to start the year and exciting to play matches on my terms, understanding that you don't always get your way, you don't always get to play your brand of tennis but you can certainly try to bend it in your way and manufacture it as much as possible. So I think this week was really clean on serve and I was able to use that as a weapon.
WTA Insider: This was your first tournament since the US Open. What was it like stepping back onto site and getting things going?
Barty: It's been really nice. We hit with Sam [Stosur] and Simo [Halep] in Melbourne, and then once we've got here to Adelaide, we're able to hit with Svitolina, Iga, Sabalenka. It was kind of nice to see some familiar faces and know that's the level that my game needs to be at.
Pre-seasons are good, but you never quite know where that level is until you test yourself against the very best. And it's been really nice to have some good, some good hit-outs this week and I feel like I'm ready. I feel like I've just got to go out there and enjoy it and enjoy playing back in Australia. It feels like it was a long time ago, but in the same breath it also feels like it was yesterday.
WTA Insider: Once you started hitting again, how have you found the progression of your game?
Barty: It feels quite natural, I think the progression, obviously, you feel like you start to see the ball, the better you move a little bit better and then you start to construct your points a bit better. And I think that that progression has been really good. It's now just about obviously doing it under match conditions, which are a little bit different to practice, without a doubt. But we know what that feels like.
Ultimately, we're still building to be ready for Melbourne Park and give ourselves these couple of weeks to settle and not stress if it doesn't feel quite right and just try and work your way through as best you can to give yourself a chance under match conditions to play more and more. That's the challenge.
WTA Insider: Last year, whether it was wanting to win Miami or Wimbledon, you were quite open about putting your goals out there and then chasing them. Are there concrete things you're chasing this year?
Barty: Within my team we're all very much on the same page, which is a great thing. We kind of don't even need to have the conversation to know what we're feeling is next in a sense of goals and dreams. Being able to sometimes separate them and understand that a dream is a dream and a goal is a little bit different was an important factor for me last year.
As we progressed through last year, the goals changed quite quickly and there was a big focus after Wimbledon to try and hold on to that No.1 ranking for the end of the season. That was something that I really wanted and probably wasn't done until after Wimbledon that I realized that it was something that I wanted so badly.
We're all very much on the same page for my goals this year and for my dreams. I'm looking forward to give it the best shot that I have and if it works out, it does. And if it doesn't, it doesn't. But yeah, we're all very clear on kind of what I want and as a team, what we want.
WTA Insider: What's the biggest thing you take from 2021 into the 2022 season?
Barty: I felt like there was a lot of growth for me personally, in going into a year and diving headfirst into an adventure that I had no idea of when it would end or what it would look like. That was a big step for me. Leaving Australia in early March and jumping in with everything that I had going into that year was something that really scared me, to not know what the season was going to look like.
I think when you reflect now, it was probably one of the most, if not the most unique season I've ever had in my tennis career. To think of the ups and downs and the adversity. I mean, I probably had the biggest injury of my life as well. To be able to work our way through that and find a way, if anything it was more of a realization for me that I genuinely am extremely fortunate to have the people that I have around me. At that time when it was a really, really rough period they helped me through and ultimately help me reach the biggest dream of my life.
I think being able to understand that the ebbs and flows and the learnings from all of the periods throughout the whole year was really important. Sitting down and reflecting on that, it's amazing how many little moments you realize are big moments. I think of a handful of matches, probably two or three matches that completely changed my season. If I don't happen to get through those then it looks, it looks very, very different and you're probably, in a result point of view, you're looking at a very different season.
I think being able to learn from everything as a whole was massively important for myself and for my team. I think when you are thrown into the deep end, I think you can see how resilient you can be. That was a massive thing for me.