INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - Ashleigh Barty is knocking on the door of her Top 10 debut and riding a wave of confidence that comes from the best season start of her career. The 22-year-old Australian came into the BNP Paribas Open ranked a career-high No.12 after a fantastic January run, which saw her make the final of the Sydney International and her first Slam quarterfinal at the Australian Open.
"Yeah, it was a hell of a start, wasn't it," Barty told WTA Insider. "Enjoyed every single minute, every single match. I was able to go home with some amazing new memories and absolutely zero regrets, which was the first time in my career where I went through a stretch of a few tournaments in a row where I didn't regret one decision I made, or one moment that I wished I could have back. It was just amazing experiences and opportunities."
But Barty's surge did not just start on home soil in January. Since the tour turned to China last fall, Barty has won 19 of her last 23 matches, including two big Fed Cup wins that helped propel Australia into the World Group semifinals in April. In fact, since the tour returned to hardcourts after Wimbledon, Barty has made the Round of 16 in every tournament she has played - nine consecutive events - a run that included her biggest title at the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai.
"It took me a good week, week and a half to recover from that Fed Cup tie, to be honest," Barty said. "Physically, playing three matches across two days is tough on a temporary court that's on boards. The body isn't used to it. I didn't pull up well enough to play in the Middle East. It gave me time to go home and refresh, reflect and come here to the beautiful desert."
Barty is back in the desert and is a win away from making her Top 10 debut. To do so, she'll have to do something she's never done: defeat World No.6 Elina Svitolina, against whom she is 0-4, having won just one set. Barty is playing in just her second main draw at Indian Wells - she lost in her opening round to Maria Sakkari last season - and has scored two strong straight-set wins over Tatjana Maria and Jennifer Brady.
Barty says the unique conditions in Indian Wells have forced her to simplify her decision-making.
"For me it's about keeping it simple, looking at all the options I have and picking the high percentage, the most simple one," she said. "I'm going to try and be in control of the points. I think those who can get inside the court and control the point come out on top.
"It's very hard to neutralize on these courts. It's very hard to run and defend and be that counter-puncher over and over and over. It takes its toll. These conditions reward the aggressive style of player. So for me, it's about getting that balance of trying to be aggressive, get on that front foot, but also taking the high percentage option when I need it."
If Barty advances to her third consecutive quarterfinal of the season, she will become the first Australian woman to rank in the Top 10 since May 2013 and the first to make her Top 10 debut since Samantha Stosur in March 2010.