World number one Ashleigh Barty won’t have a chance to fulfil her dream of winning Wimbledon this year, but she remains laser-focused on being crowned champion at the All-England Club.
The Australian won the junior Wimbledon title as a 15-year-old in 2011, but the expectations that came with that success took their toll and she made a shock decision three years later to ditch tennis for cricket.
“In short, I think I needed just to find myself,” Barty, who is skipping the upcoming US Open due to coronavirus fears, said in an interview Thursday with broadcaster ABC of her move to the Brisbane Heat cricket team.
“I felt like I got twisted and maybe a little bit lost along the way in the first part of my career.”
While cricket gave her “a different perspective about sport”, the lure of tennis was never far away, driven by an ambition to taste success again at Wimbledon.
“My dream is winning Wimbledon. Without a doubt,” said Barty, who returned to tennis in 2016.
“It took a long time for me to say that out loud. It took a long time for me to have the courage to say that out loud, but that’s what I want. That’s what I want to work towards.
“Being able to win junior Wimbledon was really special, but it just gave me a taste of what it’s really like.”
She has been robbed of the opportunity this year, with the tournament cancelled for the first time since World War II due to the worldwide coronavirus outbreak.
The 24-year-old already has one Grand Slam title to her name, winning the French Open last year, which helped her surge to the top of the world rankings where she has stayed since.
But she can’t remember much about her breakthrough at Roland Garros, where she beat Marketa Vondrousova in straight sets in the final.
“It doesn’t feel real, still,” Barty said. “That whole match is a bit of a blur, and the lead-up to that (winning) moment is a little bit lost.
“The best thing was turning around and being able to look at my team, that moment I will never forget,” she added.
Barty admitted to “ups and downs” during her extended layoff this year, but her decision to miss the US Open, which is set to start in New York on August 31, was an easy one given the unpredictability of the pandemic.
“That was a massive part of it for our team — accepting that this is something greater than what we can control, we can’t do anything about it,” she said.
“We just have to play our part and do the right thing. And then hope we get an opportunity sometime in the year to get back to some kind of normal.”
A handful of other players have also opted out of the US Open, including top-10 players Kiki Bertens and Elina Svitolina, along with men’s defending champion Rafael Nadal.