In her latest wtatennis.com column, Martina Navratilova reflects on an unpredictable French Open and the emergence of Ashleigh Barty as a major player who can win on any surface.
Martina Navratilova
June 11, 2019

There's no danger of Ashleigh Barty's head getting too big between now and Wimbledon, with her game even better suited to the grass than to the clay of Roland Garros. 

That's just not who she is - even after winning her first Grand Slam singles title at the French Open, I'm sure she will still be as down to earth as she always has been. Barty's not about to change just because she won a major. 

LOOK: Barty's party - Aussie ace celebrates Roland Garros win

Of course, there's going to be greater attention on the Australian now, but she has matured in recent years, and will be able to cope with that additional scrutiny. The only danger, I would suggest, is that she may spread herself too thin over the next three weeks before Wimbledon. There are going to be plenty of media and other requests and she needs to learn how to say no. When you have a big win like this, you need to say no more than you say yes. 

I feel as though Barty truly appreciates where she is now, and where she is going, because of what has come before. This is her second tennis career - she walked away from the first because her heart wasn't in it, as there was too much pressure on her and it wasn't fun. Then she changed her mind and came back, and it was a good thing for tennis that she did. She has rediscovered the fun of playing tennis, and her ascent has been steady; she has been getting better and better. 

LOOK: Barty crowned champion in Paris - the final in photos

Barty took advantage of the mayhem in Paris, with a kind of collective collapse among the pre-tournament favourites. It was a weird tournament, with the high seeds going out early, and with Simona Halep not looking relaxed in the defence of her title. Barty's performance against Marketa Vondrousova in the final was phenomenal. It was just a bad match-up for Vondrousova, who likes to disrupt opponents with her drop-shot and slice backhand, but couldn't hurt Barty at all with those shots. Barty was too confident and too poised, with everything working for her. Vondrousova simply had no weapons with which she could hurt Barty. 

In recent years, Barty has matured with her shot selection, as well as her game overall, including cutting down on the unforced errors. It’s not about hitting fantastic winners. Champions simply make the shots they are supposed to make and that is exactly what Barty did in Paris. And by winning on clay, she has now figured out how to win on any surface. 

Ashleigh Barty in press after her French Open win (Jimmie48/WTA)

There's no doubt that Barty can win Wimbledon - grass allows her to make use of all the shots and options that she has in her game. Whatever Barty did on clay, she can do even better on grass. She has all the shots. I would actually say Barty has more options than any other player in women's tennis. 

Barty's slice is more effective on grass than it is on clay. Players on the WTA Tour have a hard time handling slice, because most of them don't want to be inside the baseline. Also with the ball skidding through low, they're hitting a defensive shot from inside the baseline which makes them vulnerable. Barty's also a great volleyer - she can even throw in a serve-and-volley play once in a while, and mix it up, maybe chip and charge on a second serve. All of this variety can really get into an opponent's head and create confusion and some cheap mistakes on her opponent’s side.

On top of all that, Barty's also the best athlete on the WTA Tour - the fact she excelled at cricket during her time away from tennis shows what a great athlete she is. 

Now Barty has great belief in her game; her confidence is going to be sky high after winning the French Open. Of course, when big hitters such as Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka or Petra Kvitova are on, that would be hard for Barty to deal with, as it would be for anyone else. But I believe Barty is going to be very tough to beat at Wimbledon.