Barty: French Open glory impossible without two-year break
Ashleigh Barty does not think she would have won the French Open if she had not taken an almost two-year break from tennis.
Australian Barty stepped away from the sport after suffering defeat in the first round of the 2014 US Open when just 18 years old, having struggled with the rigours of the professional circuit.
She instead played cricket and secured a contract with Brisbane Heat for the inaugural Women's Big Bash League, before returning to the WTA Tour in 2016.
Three years and two days after she reappeared on the rankings at number 623, Barty overwhelmed Marketa Vondrousova 6-3 6-1 on Court Philippe-Chatrier to claim her first grand slam title.
Asked if that achievement would have been possible without her sabbatical, she responded: "Absolutely not. I don't even know if I'd be sitting here talking to you if I was playing tennis if I didn't step away.
"It's obviously a part of my life that I needed to deal with, and I feel like it was the best decision that I made at the time, and it was an even better one coming back.
"I needed time to step away, to live a normal life, because this tennis life certainly isn't normal. I think I needed time to grow as a person, to mature. I left all of my options open.
"I think it was just a natural progression for me coming back to tennis. I was still involved in tennis every single day, working with Jim [Joyce], my coach. We were coaching every day. I was still hitting balls, just not for myself.
"Certainly, it's always been a big part of my life. Tennis will always be a big part of my life. Overall, it's just I missed the competition. I missed the one-on-one battle, the ebbs and the flows, the emotions you get from winning and losing matches.
"They are so unique, and you can only get them when you're playing and when you put yourself out on the line and when you become vulnerable and try and do things that no one thinks of."
Barty, who has reached the final at all four majors in doubles and claimed the 2018 US Open title alongside CoCo Vandeweghe, believes the break enabled her to feel more confident in her ability to compete at the highest level.
"No. No, not at all. I think maybe in doubles, if I'm being completely honest," she said when asked if she thought a grand slam crown would be in reach so soon after her comeback.
"I think I was so close with Casey [Dellacqua] so many times. I felt maybe that was a possibility. But I think a new perspective in my life and in my career, it's brought this new belief and this feeling of belonging at the very top level.
"I feel like I'm playing some really good tennis. I know when I play my best tennis, I can match it against the world's best."