Ashleigh Barty’s rise from Big Bash cricketer to potentially No.2 ranked tennis player in the world has been nothing short of spectacular.
Three and a half years ago Barty was still trying to make a career in cricket, having quit the tennis circuit to immerse herself in a team sport.
Her return after that detour – exactly three years ago this week – saw her resume her career at No.623 in the rankings.
Now, a French Open final beckons if Barty gets past unseeded American Amanda Anisimova in Friday night’s semi-final. That would also mean she advances to No.3 in the world, ahead of The Netherlands’ Kiki Bertens.
Barty is ranked world No.8, but Thursday’s quarter-final win already has her rising to No.4, the highest-ranked player remaining in the women’s draw.
Her crack at a grand slam title is wide open, with her 6-3 7-5 demolition of Madison Keys in the quarters pointing to an upwardly trending form line.
Barty admits Anisimova is an unknown quantity and said she would need to be on guard against the 17-year-old.
“I haven’t seen much of her in general and I haven’t played against her,” Barty said of Anisimova after her quarter-final win.
“It’s a clean slate for both of us and an exciting opportunity for all four of us that are in the semis.
I know we are all very excited. It’s just an amazing situation to be in.”
If she wins the Open title on Sunday, Barty will advance to No.2 in the world, behind only Japanese star Naomi Osaka.
She would also become the first Australian since Margaret Court in 1973 to win at Roland Garros, and the first to clinch a grand slam title since Samantha Stosur’s US Open triumph in 2012.
Barty, however, is not looking at the rankings or the history, telling reporters her lead-up to Friday’s match had been about keeping the noise out.
“It’s a new situation for me. I don’t think you know quite what to expect … but I will prepare and do the best that I can to keep it normal.
“Obviously it’s a little bit of a different buzz and a little bit of a different electricity. But, ultimately, I’ll try to prepare and do everything exactly the same and try and play my best tennis.”
Barty broke into the top 10 earlier this year.
At the time, she told The New Daily that it had been a long-term goal and one that would ensure she kept improving.
“It’s very cool. It really is cool,’’ she said.
“It’s obviously been a goal of mine for a long time, and to have it there it’s pretty neat. But we’re certainly not satisfied: the lower it is, the better it is.
“I’m giving myself more opportunities against these better girls, and when you’re playing against top five, top 10 girls, it means most of the time you’re at the business end of the tournament, where the best are playing against the best.’’
It’s all a far cry from Barty’s 2015-16 move into cricket, with the Queenslander showing she was no slouch with the bat when she played for the Brisbane Heat in the Women’s Big Bash League.
At the time Barty said she was looking for a break from the tennis circuit and to be immersed in a team sport.
But she ultimately couldn’t live up to her debut performance when she hit 39 off 27 balls against the Melbourne Stars.
You can watch the Ash Barty semi-final against Amanda Anisimova at 7pm AEST on SBS VICELAND and live streaming on SBS OnDemand.