Former World No.1 Ashleigh Barty's memoir "My Dream Time" is a celebration of the community that sets her on her path toward tennis history. Even the most ardent Barty observers will find new insights and worthy anecdotes in the 350-page recounting of her career. It offers candid and emotionally resonant insight into what drove one of the sport's most quietly competitive champions.
Here are five things we learned:
A match against Daria Kasatkina was her 'rock bottom'
The catalyst for Barty's ascendance to World No.1 and Grand Slam champion was a match that few paid much attention to, let alone remember: her loss to Daria Kasatkina in the third round of 2018 Wimbledon.
In fact, the match was so pivotal it serves as the opening chapter of the memoir. "The issue is that my good is great, but my bad is horrible," Barty writes. "When I'm winning, I look like a million bucks -- like I'm toying with people -- but when my tactics aren't working, I lack the maturity to solve my own problems."
Barty blew a 4-1 lead to lose 7-5, 6-3, but it's her attitude that during the match that was the issue.
Barty's coach, Craig Tyzzer, did not speak to her after that match. He flew home the next day and did not engage with her apologetic texts. When they eventually had their tearful heart-to-heart, Tyzzer effectively issued an ultimatum.
"You can beat these girls," he said. "But there is something going on in that head of yours that I have no idea how to fix. We need help."
Now at rock bottom in her second go at a career, Barty accepted a meeting with Ben Crowe, the man who would serve as her trusted mental coach and advisor until the end of her career.
Twelve months later, Barty returned to Wimbledon as a Grand Slam champion and the WTA's new World No.1.
She heard the doubters
Barty was notorious for keeping her cards close to the vest, seemingly operating above the noise and chatter. But in her memoir, she finally cops to how much the questioning of her accomplishments initially got under her skin, but ultimately motivated her.
After scrapping through a three-set win over Amanda Anisimova in the semifinals of the 2019 French Open, Barty thought, "I don't deserve this, I'm not worthy of being here, I'm not good enough. I'm into the final of a Slam without beating a top ten player."
After winning Roland Garros and rising to No.1, she returned home and still couldn't shake the pundit chatter.
"'You're winning, but you haven't had to beat Simona Halep or Karolina Pliskova. You're looking good but you haven't had to knock over Naomi Osaka or Serena Williams.'
"I begin to feel it, too. They're right, I think. I haven't played anyone in the Top 20 [to win a Slam]."
And when Barty returned to the tour after opting out of the 2020 Covid season, she heard the whispers again.
"There has been a lot of chatter about who deserves to be the WTA World No.1. I don't follow it much but I know a lot of people think I'm undeserving of the rank, particularly after Naomi Osaka wins the 2020 US Open and the 2021 Australian Open, two Slams in succession. This gets me a little bit, and fires me up."
She taps into that fire to famously save match points in her opening match at the Miami Open.
"Screw the haters, I think. I am the world number 1, and I know I'm the best tennis player in the world at the moment. I'm also into another final. To all those who don't believe in me, I send a silent message: Shut your mouth, shove it and watch me play."
The rest is history. Barty goes on to defend her Miami title and follows it up by winning Stuttgart. On match point in Stuttgart, Barty turned to Tyzzer and dropped a soon-to-be iconic line that, well, can't be printed here.
You'll just have to read it in the book.
She would have traded her French Open win for the Billie Jean King Cup
It's the 2019 Billie Jean King Cup Final and Australia and France are locked at 1-1 after Day 1. But Barty was gassed. The 69 singles matches and 39 doubles matches she played that year have finally caught up and she loses a 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(1) heartbreaker to Kristina Mladenovic.
"I walk into the gym, broken, and slump on the treadmill in tears. Mol [Australia's captain Alicia Molik] has crouched down on the treadmill next to me and I look at her through red eyes. 'I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!' I offer up. 'If I could give back the French Open to win that match, I would."
Her teammate, Ajla Tomljanovic, was warming up for her match and heard it all. Tomljanovic stepped up and leveled the tie, delivering a 6-4, 7-5 win over Pauline Parmentier.
"She walks straight over to me. 'I knew you always wanted this,' she says, 'but I didn't realize you wanted it that much.' Seeing me so distraught wasn't a hindrance, she tells me; on the contrary, it fired her up and set her chasing the win."
But it wasn't enough for the Aussies. Barty and Stosur lost the deciding doubles.
She's a voracious learner
Throughout the book, it's clear that Barty is an information sponge. She reads constantly -- she tore through seven books during her Wimbledon title run. Her curiosity, both on and off the court, drove her to become the best version of herself.
That curiosity is front and center of one of the most moving chapters in the book, in which she discusses her indigenous heritage. Her father began the quest to understand the family's heritage on his own. "It was not a conversation his parents could have with him. To his parents, Aboriginal ancestry was something to be ashamed of and not something he should be curious about."
"He unearthed a name, Nancy, his great-grandmother. He pieced together her story, too: how she was married to a white man, and their mixed relationship saw them shunned in the town, booted to the margins of society."
She beautifully shares what she's come to learn about the Ngarigo Nation, recounting the stories that inspired her and grew her unshakable connection to her ancestry, which inspired the memoir's title.
She dismantled her racquets the night she learned she had played her last tennis match
The 2022 Australian Open final would be Barty's last professional tennis match, but she didn't know that until a month later. Barty was prepared to say goodbye at Australia's Billie Jean King Cup tie in April, which was set to be hosted in Brisbane.
But the war in Ukraine changed everything. With Russia and Belarus banned from international competition, Australia would have a spot in the final, negating the necessity of the Brisbane tie. On March 12, Barty woke up to a text message from Molik confirming the tie was off.
"And just like that, my career is over."
"That night I go into the garage, where I keep my racquets. I've always protected my racquets fiercely, as if they're more than any property but rather an extension of myself."
"Today I hold one of those spare racquets in my hand, and I take out a pair of scissors. I start in the middle, snipping the strings in a big cross ... and then I pulled the strings from the outside edge of the frame and drop them in the bin." Barty stripped down her racquets -- all 10 of them -- grips, stickers and all, and zipped them away in her tennis bag.
"I switch off the light. I walk out of the garage, and back into my life."