World No.1 Ashleigh Barty will thrive under the added pressure of being top seed at the 2020 Australian Open, according to close friend and long-time doubles partner Casey Dellacqua.
With Barty’s stellar season nearing an end, the 2019 French Open champion will likely be the No.1 seed at Melbourne Park when next year’s tournament gets underway on January 20.
While other top-rated locals have wilted under the weight of expectation at their home grand slam, Dellacqua believes Barty will excel.
“If anyone can deal with it I think it’s Ash … I think she has the ability and the team around her to ensure that she focuses on what she needs to do,” Dellacqua told reporters at the launch of the Open on Tuesday.
“The experience she had at the French Open will certainly help her.
“She knows what it takes to win a grand slam because she’s been there and done it before.
“She loves playing in Australia, so if anything she’ll want the crowd behind her cheering her on and I think that will be a huge advantage for her if anything.
“She’s the No.1 player in Australia, she’s leading the way and she’s doing a fine job of it.”
Former Davis Cup champion John Fitzgerald, who will be inducted into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame in January, also backed Barty to shine.
“If she can get into the second week here the atmosphere in Melbourne will be staggering,” he said.
“It would be beyond what we’ve seen here over the last last decade or so … all hell will break loose.”
Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley says he’s thrilled at the prospect of Barty headlining the local contingent at a potentially once-in-a-generation event with Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams on the brink of major milestones.
If Williams can claim her eighth Australian Open crown, she will draw level with Margaret Court on 24 major singles titles and Nadal has the chance to match Roger Federer’s 20 grand slam titles.
Tiley confirmed two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray will make his grand slam return in Australia after undergoing career-saving hip surgery.
He also said there was a good chance former world No.1 and four-time grand slam winner Kim Clijsters will be granted a wildcard as she looks to return after seven years in retirement.
Mercurial local hope Nick Kyrgios is battling a shoulder injury and has a 16-week suspended ban hanging over his head after his antics at the Cincinnati Masters in August.
But Tiley is confident the firebrand will be present and be a significant drawcard.