Sport Tennis ‘Unbelievable’ Ash Barty set to begin US Open campaign
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‘Unbelievable’ Ash Barty set to begin US Open campaign

ash barty US open
Barty comes to the US Open fresh from winning the prestigious WTA 1000 event in Cincinnati 10 days ago. Photo: Getty
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Her game face well and truly on, Ash Barty has made it clear she’s in the Big Apple for business not pleasure.

Even her rivals are in awe of the world No.1’s stunning five-title season after taking a near-12-month sabbatical during the height of the global pandemic last year.

But Barty won’t be smelling any roses until it’s job done in New York, where adding the US Open crown to her 2021 Wimbledon trophy trumps sightseeing and shopping.

“We’re not quite finished yet, so we’ll wait till our adventure comes to an end before we go and start reminiscing,” Barty said before her first-round clash on Wednesday (4am AEST) with two-time grand slam finalist Vera Zvonareva.

All business, Barty is locked in her own grand slam bubble, saying she won’t be taking advantage of Manhattan’s relative freedoms compared to Australia’s near-nationwide lockdown.

“Obviously we spend our time here at the courts doing what we need to do,” the 25-year-old said.

“Once we’re back at the hotel, a lot of the time it’s pretty quiet for me. I’ll wander town to a cafe and get a coffee, and that’s about it.”

Barty opted out of last year’s Open – “I was probably sitting on my couch at home with the dogs. Certainly wasn’t watching” – but has returned to the tour in spectacular fashion this season, doing a mighty job peaking for the big events.

“It’s a balance. Trusting myself and trusting the work that we do behind the scenes is the right thing,” she said.

“Also accepting that you’re not going to play your best tennis every week so sometimes trying to prioritise those bigger events is important.

“Not every one we’ve got right and that’s OK.

“We’re learning along the way and this year has been a really good balance overall of some good stuff and not too many matches where we’ve been disappointed.”

Enjoying her 93rd week as world No.1, Barty has a whopping 3175-point rankings lead – equivalent to one and a half grand slam titles – over world No.2 Aryna Sabalenka, who hailed the Australian an inspiration to her challengers.

“What she’s doing, it’s unbelievable,” the Belarusian said.

“She’s playing really well. Her game is really tough. She’s a really tough opponent for most of the players on the tour.

“That’s why she’s doing what she’s doing.

“Yeah, what she’s doing, it’s a goal for every player to be on the top for, like, so long and be consistently there.

“That’s something unbelievable.

“She’s serving well. She can use the slice, which is for most of the girls a really uncomfortable shot. She can hit the ball pretty heavy.

“She has everything in her hand, so she can do everything.

“That’s what’s makes her stronger than everybody.”

Barty is taking the accolades and Open favouritism in her stride, saying “there’s no guarantees in sport” and focusing exclusively on Zvonareva, the 2010 runner-up.

“I’ve never played Vera before,” the top seed said.

“But she’s a player who loves the conditions here. She’s made a final here before, obviously is very comfortable on the big courts here.

“It’s a match I’ll have to be ready for straight away, which is great.

“It’s a good challenge, someone who’s experienced, has played a lot of big matches and is really comfortable here in New York.”

-AAP