SYDNEY: No worries is one of Australia’s more notable contributions to the English language but Ashleigh Barty has preferred the mantra no panic stations over the last few weeks as she hit the hard courts to prepare for the upcoming US Open. Along with the sort of meteoric rise she enjoyed when she won the French Open in June comes a corresponding frenzy at any subsequent setback, as if every defeat was the start of a catastrophic spiral back down to earth.
The 23-year-old Australian, though, has given every indication that she will greet such reverses with the same grounded outlook which won her so many fans when she triumphed at Roland Garros. At times I played some good stuff. At times I played some pretty awful stuff, she said after losing last Saturday’s Cincinnati semi-finals to Svetlana Kuznetsova.
But to be here in a semi-final, to give yourself another opportunity at the business end of a tournament, is always a good thing. We have learnt a lot from this week, and we have nothing but positives going into New York. Yes, the purple patch of form that won her a maiden Grand Slam crown, her first Premier title at Miami and the Birmingham tournament in the first six months of the year did eventually come to an end.
And yes, the world No. 1 ranking came and went too, with her hopes of wresting it back to take top seeding at the US Open foundering with her defeat in Cincinnati. But for Barty, it has all been a learning experience as she looks to get back into her stride after taking the best part of a month off in the wake of her last-16 exit at Wimbledon.
Her all-court style was always supposed to suit grass best but it was at Flushing Meadows where she first reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam last year, going out to Karolina Pliskova as the 18th seed. Much water has passed under the bridge since then, and she will be seeded second and expected to go deep into the tournament when it starts on Monday. But such expectation is not a problem for her.
I’m comfortable in my own skin, comfortable with my team, said Barty, who uses plural pronouns to discuss her game so as to include her support staff. And obviously when we play our best tennis, I think we can do damage in tournaments and be at the latter stages of tournaments, which is what we are after. There is certainly no panic where it gets to the stage where I’m kind of overwrought or can’t think straight. I think (the) most exciting thing is, we are learning and growing every week.