Ash Barty at Pat Rafter during a brief stopover in Brisbane. Pic Annette Dew
Ash Barty at Pat Rafter during a brief stopover in Brisbane. Pic Annette Dew

Major winner Barty sets sights on new challenge

ASH Barty was ranked 55 places above Naomi Osaka when the Japanese player upended her Australian Open campaign in January.

While Barty is justifiably proud of her success in backing up her breakthrough WTA season last year, Osaka, age 20, charged to a first Grand Slam title last Sunday in New York and inside the top 10 for the first time.

Barty, in Brisbane for a four-day break after winning her own first Grand Slam doubles title last weekend, will be an eyewitness to Osaka's new life when they both play a tournament in Tokyo next week.

Asked if she was surprised the younger woman had been ready to win a Grand Slam, Barty, 22, said: "Yes and no. She's won two titles in her career, Indian Wells and the US Open, which are two of our biggest titles in the world.

Ash Barty lost to Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open this year .Pic: Michael Klein
Ash Barty lost to Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open this year .Pic: Michael Klein

"The tennis she played throughout the fortnight in New York was phenomenal.

"She is forever a Grand Slam champion. She's always had the ability to put it together and she did that over two weeks in New York.''

Asked if she agreed with Serena Williams's claim after a tantrum in the US Open final against Osaka that women are held to higher standards of behaviour by umpires than men, Barty said: "To be honest I didn't even see that match. I was practising, so I can't even comment on that match. I'm not on the men's tour, so I can't say.''

Barty, a popular figure among her peers on tour, won a "sportsmanship'' award from the USTA for her efforts during the series of US tournaments, with proceeds directed by her to the RSPCA.

Barty is the same ranking, No.17, that she was when she lost to Osaka in the third round of the Australian Open in January, having well and truly avoided the second-year blues which players commonly face on tour.

The Ipswich right-hander earned a total of $872,510 in prizemoney at the US Open for her fourth round singles finish, her best at a major, and her first doubles title, won with CoCo Vandeweghe, the American with whom she hopes to qualify for the WTA doubles championship in Singapore.

"The main goal for the season was to be consistent and consolidate my spot in the top 20,'' Barty said.

"We've had a phenomenal and consistent year and looking to maybe get to a career-high ranking (of No.16) before the end of the year.''

Barty flies out to Tokyo on Saturday for next week's WTA tournament there.

She will definitely play two subsequent tournaments, both in China, before results determine where in the top 25 she will finish this year.

Barty is defending 835 of her current 2850 ranking points over the rest of the season, as she made the final at Wuhan, China beating four top-10 players before losing to France's Caroline Garcia.

Ash Barty is looking to get to a career-high ranking of 16 before the end of the year..Picture : Ian Currie
Ash Barty is looking to get to a career-high ranking of 16 before the end of the year..Picture : Ian Currie

The Queenslander, who is being courted by Hopman Cup organisers even though she has played the Brisbane International each year she was able, said she had yet to decide on a summer schedule.

"This is my home tournament but we haven't made any decisions for what we want to do in the first six months of the year,'' Barty said.

"We are focussing on the last little push for this year and then we'll work out what we are playing and aiming to do.''

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