Tennis superstar Ash Barty capped her stellar 2019 with two more wins in December – collecting her third straight Newcombe Medal early in the month and being named the Women’s Tennis Association’s player of the year just a few days later.
In mid-December, she picked up 82 per cent of the media vote to win the WTA – which came in the same week she was also named the Australian Institute of Sport Performance’s female athlete of the year, ABC sport personality of the year and the sporting moment of the year.
“We are a sporting nation, we love it and it is in our blood, so to receive the votes and the support from the public is amazing,” Barty told the ABC.
But earlier, on Newcombe Medal night, the world No.1 had had a bit more to say. She thanked her parents, Josie and Robert, and first tennis coach, Jim Joyce, crediting their love and support for her rapid rise in tennis.
“I’m extremely fortunate to have such an amazing network around me. It’s very special to have mum, dad and my very first coach – Jim – here,” she said.
“They gave me the unconditional love and support time and time again in all bad times.
“In good times, they’re always there and there a few words they said to me: ‘I love to watch you play’.”
“When your mum and dad says that to you, when your coach says that to you, that makes the heart race a little bit – like it’s racing right now.
“Honestly, it’s been incredible and I’m very grateful they’re here tonight to share it with me as well.”
The 23-year-old has had a dream year, fuelled by gruelling hours of hard work.
She began 2019 as she meant to go on, becoming the first local woman in a decade to advance to the quarterfinals at the Australian Open.
It was a breakthrough performance – her first appearance in the last eight at a major tournament – that paved the way for more success.
In March, she won the biggest title of her career at the Miami Open to crack the world top 10. Two months later, she rose to even greater heights with her triumph at Roland Garros – becoming Australia’s first French Open champion since Margaret Court in 1973.
In June, Barty became women’s World No.1 – the first Australian woman to hold the title since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1976.
She was also the first Australian woman to secure the year-end top ranking – and the first Aussie since Lleyton Hewitt to do so in 2002.
Last month, Barty pocketed the biggest cheque in tennis history ($6.4 million) after she beat four top-eight rivals in eight days at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen.
But the star said she would never have achieved so much without her tight-knit support group. At the Newcombe awards, she singled out her mental coach Ben Crowe and trusted mentor Craig Tyzzer for special praise.
“Crowey, you have changed my life immensely. I can’t thank you enough for helping me become the woman I am today, for helping me realise the person I want to be off the court,” Barty said.
“You changed not only my life – my mum and dad, my sisters Ali and Sarah – you’ve been a massive influence for us and I’m very lucky to have found you and to have stumbled across you.
“You’re a genuine friend and I cannot thank you enough for what you have done.”
Tyzzer was named elite coach of the year at the same ceremony.
“Tyzz, you’re the captain of our ship. You make sure that we tick along every single day and there wouldn’t be another person that I want to spend this journey with,” Barty said.
“You’re an incredible person, an amazing friend, and even though sometimes on the court I’m venting and giving you a little bit of a spray, we have an incredible relationship. We have great banter.”
The 2019 Newcombe medal, Barty’s third, puts her level with 2011 US grand slam winner Sam Stosur – the only other person to have received the award in three consecutive years.
In January, she will return to Melbourne Park as the Australian Open’s first home-grown top seed since Lleyton Hewitt in 2003 – and first Australian woman to hold the position since Evonne Goolgong in 1977.
On top of all that, Barty is a nominee for the 2020 Australian of the Year title.