TORONTO, Canada - She might be the world’s top player with a Grand Slam title to her name, but No.1 seed Ashleigh Barty admits that she still struggles to see herself as a true tennis champion.
Speaking during WTA All-Access Hour ahead of the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Barty opened up on the ‘bizarre whirlwind’ she’s experienced on and off the court following her French Open triumph and rise to the top of the women’s tennis rankings.
“There’s a little bit more attention now, a little bit more focus,” Barty told journalists at a round-table interview. “I’m talking to you guys [the press] more and more now, but I don’t feel like I have a lot to say.
“For me really, nothing has changed. It’s all pretty normal, it’s all part and parcel of what we do and the crazy ride that we’re on as tennis players.”
While Barty is keen to downplay the effects of her success, it’s definitely not gone unnoticed in her home country of Australia. After the French Open in June, Barty went straight into the grass season in Great Britain. She immediately backed up her Grand Slam victory with a run to the Birmingham title, cementing her rise to the WTA World No.1 ranking.
She didn’t make the trip home until after Wimbledon, where she posted a career-best fourth round appearance - and by then, the Barty Party was in full swing Down Under. She received a hero’s welcome to Brisbane, where she was greeted by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and dozens of up-and-coming tennis players.
Barty admitted that it wasn’t until she touched down on home soil that everything really started to sink in.
“It’s just been a bizarre whirlwind few months for me, but it was really nice to go back home and refresh and relax with family,” she said. “I think that’s kind of when it set in a little bit more.
“That was the best thing, just being able to share that with those that I love the most [about] everything that I went through in the last two or three months.”
After a month-long break in Australia, Barty is set to take the court this week in Toronto. The draw reveals another sign of how rapid her rise to the top has been: the last time she played in Toronto back in 2017, she had to fight through the qualifying rounds for a spot in the main draw - this year, she returns as the top seed.
But while the rest of the field might see her as the one to beat, Barty was emphatic when she said that she’s not letting her on-court success get to her head.
“I’m far from a champion,” Barty told press. “When I think of legends and champions, particularly on the women’s side, I think of Evonne [Goolagong], Alicia [Molik] and Casey [Dellacqua], in my eyes. It’s just genuine people who had a crack and were the best version of themselves, did the best that they could and applied themselves every single day.
“That’s the making of a champion, regardless of how many titles you win or what number is next to your name. I’m just trying to do that every single day.”
She added, “Even though at the moment I’ve got the No.1 ranking and a Grand Slam title, that doesn’t change anything for me.
“I’m trying to go about my business in the exact same way. I’m trying to get better as a person and a player every day. I’m still extremely hungry and driven to try and progress and become better every day.”
Into the second round after receiving a bye, Barty awaits the winner between Sofia Kenin and Hsieh Su-Wei to kick off her 2019 Rogers Cup campaign.