The Ash Barty effect already producing stunning results
As world No.1 Ash Barty thrives on court, she is also inspiring her Australian peers to even greater heights.
Two years ago, Australian coach Nicole Pratt predicted an ‘Ash Barty effect’ would invigorate Australian women’s tennis.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that what Ash is doing is inspiring more young girls to pick up a racquet and play,” Pratt told Australian Tennis Magazine after Barty first rose to world No.1 in 2019.
Pratt, a former world No.35 in singles and top 20 doubles player, also foreshadowed that many of the Queensland-based players would benefit in immediate years.
“Whenever Ash is back at home in Queensland, she is hitting with the likes of Lizette Cabrera, Priscilla Hon, Kim Birrell and some of the juniors there,” Pratt said. “For those players out on the court with Ash, they just gain so much confidence.”
One of those juniors she was referring to is 18-year-old Olivia Gadecki, who is enjoying a stunning breakout summer after training alongside Barty in 2020.
“I’ve been very fortunate enough to have Ash training in Brisbane and she gave me the opportunity to do her pre-season, and also my pre-season, with her,” Gadecki related.
Gadecki, who grew up on the Gold Coast, impressed with her form and improvement at last year’s UTR Pro Tennis Series and was rewarded with an Australian Open 2021 women’s singles qualifying wildcard.
Competing in Dubai marked her first professional event outside of Australia. She made the most of the opportunity, defeating world No.246 Lara Salden of Belgium in the opening round.
It was the start of a incredible summer for Gadecki, who then teamed with Belinda Woolcock to score her first WTA doubles win at the Melbourne Summer Series earlier this month. The duo also advanced to the second round in doubles at the Australian Open.
Gadecki has achieved more milestones at the Phillip Island Trophy this week, winning her first WTA main draw singles match against fellow Aussie Destanee Aiava.
In the second round, the unranked wildcard produced outstanding tennis to defeat world No.4 Sofia Kenin.
Barty was sitting in the stands at Melbourne Park on Sunday, supporting Gadecki as she recorded her first top-10 win.
“I’m incredibly proud of Liv,” Barty revealed. “She’s done so much work over the last few months. I invited her to do a preseason with us knowing she’s a brilliant girl first and foremost, and then a hell of a ballstriker after that. We had a really good two or three months of training together. She worked her backside off. She pushed me.”
After defeating Australian Open 2020 champion Kenin this week, Gadecki was quick to credit Barty’s influence.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did without all her help, her time and effort,” she said. “I’m really, really thankful for all she’s done for me.”
Birrell, one of the rising Queensland players that Pratt predicted would most benefit from Barty’s influence, is returning from a 20-month lay-off due to an elbow injury.
After spending the past year rehabbing and training in Brisbane, Birrell defeated world No.54 Alize Cornet at this week’s Melbourne Summer Series. It was the 22-year-old’s first top-100 win in over two years. Birrell is now into the third round, winning back-to-back tour-level matches for only the second time in her career.
Maddison Inglis, a 23-year-old from Perth who has relocated to Brisbane and often trains with Barty, posted her first WTA main draw singles win this week.
While world No.566 Gabriella Da Silva Fick, who calls Barty a mentor, posted her first tour-level victory yesterday. The 20-year-old saved two match points to defeat world No.92 Aliksandra Sasnovich and record a career-first top-100 win.
Australia’s Billie Jean King Cup captain Alicia Molik has no doubt the ‘Ash Barty effect’ is boosting the self-belief in these rising stars of Australian tennis.
“Having your own countrywoman at the top, it’s pretty inspiring,” Molik said.
“Ash is really generous with her time too and training with our other Aussies players. It has a huge impact.
“For someone like Olivia Gadecki who is in the National Academy gym every single day with Ash, being in that environment and having those experiences with someone that is at the top, it makes you think you can do it.
“I get the sense that they’re all being carried through on the wave a little bit … they are all pretty proud to be part of what Ash is doing.”