Debutante Barty soaking up the experience
Making her debut for Australia this week in the Czech Republic, teenager Ash Barty is relishing the chance to soak up the Fed Cup experience.
Things just keep getting better for Ash Barty.
The 16-year-old Aussie prodigy, currently the second-highest ranked player of her age in the world at No.180, is fresh off her first ever appearance in a Grand Slam final after reaching the Australian Open women’s doubles decider with Casey Dellacqua in January.
During that doubles run, Fed Cup captain Alicia Molik announced that Barty was being selected in the Australian team to take on defending champions Czech Republic in a World Group first round tie in Ostrava.
For a player who is yet to finish school and who must still contend with an age-restricted professional schedule, these milestones are extremely exciting, and are arriving almost as quickly as her ascent up the WTA rankings.
“Everyone’s been able to help me so far. I played Junior Fed Cup when Nic (Bradtke) was our captain so I’ve worked with her, and having Todd (Woodbridge), who is a doubles specialist giving advice, I’m just taking it all in and enjoying it so far,” the Fed Cup debutant said during the team’s practice week in Ostrava.
“It’s been really good to spend time with Jarks (Jarmila Gajdosova), Sam (Stosur) and Casey as always, and to be around Alicia and Nic and soak up the Fed Cup experience. And also getting the opportunity to play against the defending champions this weekend will be great.”
Although it’s unlikely Barty will take to the court against the Czechs ahead of her three more experienced teammates, the Queenslander would by no means find herself out of her depth if she was to be called upon by Molik to don the green-and-gold.
The Australian has gained much valuable experience recently at the top level as she successfully transitioned from junior to senior tennis in 2012. She debuted at Grand Slam level with a wildcard into the main draw at Australian Open 2012, experience which was bolstered by wildcard entries into the women’s singles at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
Yet while she was unable to win a match in that setting, she was making waves on the ITF circuit, claiming three Australian Pro Tour titles in 2012 and, more resoundingly, winning the $50,000 Nottingham ITF grasscourt event in June against impressive international opposition.
Having begun 2012 ranked in the 680s, Barty entered 2013 inside the top 200. And she immediately set to work proving she belonged there, demolishing 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone at the Hopman Cup and pushing the formidable Mona Barthel and Dominika Cibulkova to three sets in Hobart and Melbourne respectively.
Barty’s form even saw her noted by world No.1 and Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka as a dangerous player on the Belarusian’s radar.
Should the Australia v Czech Republic tie come down to a deciding doubles rubber, Barty may prove a savvy pick following her success with Dellacqua at Melbourne Park.
“Obviously it was an amazing two weeks for both of us. It’s never nice to lose in a final, let alone a Grand Slam final, but in the matches we played we beat some quality opponents and gained some real confidence and trust in each other on court, and we are good friends off the court as well,” she said.
Australian No.1 Sam Stosur is someone who believes Barty’s inclusion in the Australian squad to be a valuable one.
“With Ash playing her first (tie) it’s really good for her and she absolutely deserves to be here,” Stosur said.
“As Ash and Case have played before I’m sure she also feels really comfortable coming into the group. We have a bunch of new people here and it’s going really well so far and there’s no reason it won’t continue.”
Could it continue to the point that Australia is to claim a famous upset victory over the two-time defending champions?
Barty, with all her youthful exuberance, doesn’t see why not.
“We are definitely the underdogs going into the tie, (but) it’s definitely winnable if we can string a few good matches together,” she said.
“You never know what can happen.”