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French Open 2019: From playing in Big Bash League to winning the Grand Slam, Ashleigh Barty is quite a sportswoman

Karthik Raj
ANALYST
Feature
08 Jun 2019, 23:07 IST

Ashleigh Barty- A French Open champion
Ashleigh Barty- A French Open champion

Tennis fans around the world would be well aware of Ashleigh Barty, especially after she won the French Open by beating Czech Republic's Marketa Vondrousova 6-1 6-3 to bag her maiden Grand Slam. To be honest, the majority of them would have known her even before this considering she has been one of the brightest tennis players to come out of Australia. However, most of the casual tennis fans might not be aware that Barty isn't proficient at just playing their favourite sport, Tennis. Yes, Barty is an incredibly talented sportswoman having also represented Brisbane Heat in the Women's Big Bash League.

For Barty, Tennis has always come first and rightly so. Why wouldn't she consider it more important than cricket after becoming a Wimbledon Junior champion at the age of 15 in 2011? A couple of years later, she ended up as a runner up in the doubles events of three Grand slams while partnering Casey Dellacqua.

However, in the back end of the 2014 season, Barty announced that she was "taking a break from professional tennis". She later said that she took time off from tennis because "it was too much too quickly" for her at a young age. Barty was ranked outside of the top 200 in singles and was No. 40 in doubles at the time.

This break led to her trying a hand at cricket, a sport for which she had never received any formal training. The opportunity to be a part of a team interested Barty because at times she felt lonely while playing her favourite sport. So in order to transform a casual wish into a proper professional venture, Barty approached Queensland fire to find out ways of getting involved in the sport.

Andy Richards, the coach of the Queensland Fire and soon-to-be coach of the Brisbane Heat, was immediately impressed with Barty's skill set, saying, "Her skill from the first time she picked up a bat was outstanding from a coach's perspective. She never missed a ball in her first session. That's what attracted me as a coach to her as a player, her ability to pick up things really quickly." This reflected Barty's cricketing talent and the fact that she wasn't trying the sport for fun.

Her cricketing career quickly progressed as Barty performed well in the Brisbane Women's premier cricket Twenty20 League. Barty soon signed with the Brisbane Heat for the inaugural edition of the Women's Big Bash League. She even scored 39 off just 27 balls on her WBBL debut against Melbourne Stars. Unfortunately, that knock turned out to be her only notable performance in that season as she was able to notch up only one more double-digit score.

Although Barty had taken a break, she never ruled out a return to tennis. So, soon after the WBBL finished, Barty announced her return to professional tennis in February. Barty quickly rose up the ranking table and finished the 2017 calendar year with a bang to end up in the Top 20 of both the singles and doubles charts.

The very next year, she won the doubles title at the US Open. Barty's brilliant rise kept on continuing as she reached her first slam quarter-final at the 2019 Australian Open. So, one could say that this amazing triumph at the French Open was always on the cards. The gargantuan leap up always meant that her crowning had to come at some point. If not this French Open, it could have been any of the next two slams in the tennis calendar.

Overall, this amazing triumph at the French Open must feel so special for Ashleigh Barty. From taking a hiatus for feeling that too much has happened too quickly with respect to her tennis career in 2014 to winning the 2019 French Open, one wonders whether Barty's fans should now ponder about how quickly things have turned around for their favourite sportsperson.

It is amazing enough to be a top player in one particular sport. But when someone is so talented at two different sports in the form of tennis and cricket, you just have to doff your hat and admire an amazing sportswoman.





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