Australian Open 2020: Barty grounded amid heightened expectations in pursuit of home slam

By Sports Desk January 19, 2020

After a quarter-final run at the 2019 Australian Open, a lot has changed for Ashleigh Barty but it is business as usual for the world number one in Melbourne.

Australian star Barty arrives at Melbourne Park for her home grand slam as the WTA Tour's top-ranked player and the reigning French Open and WTA Finals champion.

Barty became the first Australian to win the Roland Garros singles title since Margaret Court in 1973 and the first Australian to claim a major singles title since Sam Stosur's 2011 US Open triumph.

Her memorable 2019 exploits have heightened expectations in Melbourne, where all eyes are on the top seed ahead of her opening match against Lesia Tsurenko.

However, Barty's coach Craig Tyzzer told Omnisport: "There's more expectations on her, but she knows she has to go out there and compete every day, do her best. The result takes care of itself. If she's able to do that and keep focused on that stuff, she'll do some damage."

"The pre-season was pretty strong," Tyzzer said. "Ash put a lot of effort it. She's particularly fussy and a bit of a perfectionist anyway, so it kept her on edge a bit more knowing 'okay well I've got a responsibility here as well'.

"It's been good. We know what's coming but we will treat everything pretty much the same with regard to how we approach her matches."

"Slams are so hard to win over the two weeks, being healthy and playing well all the time," he continued. "Her expectations are that every match is going to be tough. She's pretty ready for the battle, and hopefully she can go deep into the tournament."

Barty is fresh off a 57-13 season on the WTA Tour – a year which yielded four titles from six finals in Miami, Paris, Birmingham and Shenzhen.

The 23-year-old claimed the biggest winner's cheque in tennis history after collecting $4.42million thanks to her WTA Finals victory over Elina Svitolina in November.

"I think her consistent level of play," Tyzzer said when asked about anything specific that helped Barty make such an impact last year. "There weren't many ups or downs. There weren't really super highs or big drop offs. I felt like over the 12 months her level was very consistent.

"There were a few times where she was tired after long periods of time. We could see that kind of stuff coming, so we controlled that fairly well with breaks and then build up again to the next tournament block. Her ability to play at a good level throughout the whole year was probably the biggest factor, I know there were other areas."

Barty's success saw Tyzzer – who has worked with the Queenslander since she returned to the sport in 2016 after a cricket stint – recognised as the WTA Coach of the Year.

But Tyzzer and countrywoman Barty are refusing to stand still in pursuit of further glory.

"There's certainly areas where she can get better. We've been working through the summer on her transitioning, try to get into the net more and get in behind her good shots. She sees it well in doubles but probably doesn't see it as well in singles yet. So that's probably one of the areas I'd like her to spend time on," he added.

"You can never sit still in the sport. If you sort of stop and feel like you've done everything and you're not going to improve then someone else is going to run over the top of you pretty quickly."

"We're doing a lot more work on her strength and speed, movement around the court," Tyzzer said. "Putting in a lot of time on returning, trying to make that better as well. As a coach, you're always looking for improvements, but you also have to acknowledge the good stuff and continue to encourage what she's done well. She's put good results together, so you don't want to make drastic changes just for the sake of changing.  You have to be careful with that stuff too."

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