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ASHLEIGH BARTY has set her sights on becoming the next world No 1 after winning her first grand slam singles title at the French Open.
The 23-year-old Australian was the class of the field in Paris, defeating Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova 6-1 6-3 in the final.
Barty will climb to No 2 in the rankings tomorrow, only 136 points behind top-ranked Naomi Osaka, and with her favourite part of the season, the grass, to come next.
She said: “Being No 2 in the world is incredible. It’s something I never dreamt of as a child and obviously we’ll keep chipping away and try our best to get to number one.
“A goal of mine this year was to try to crack the top 10. And then it was chipping away trying to get top five.
“It’s all happened pretty quickly over the last two weeks but we’re trying to take it in our stride. Obviously we’ll have a couple of quiet days now to relax, to celebrate and then set new goals.”
It is well documented that Barty’s path to the top has not been linear. Marked out as a future star very young, she won the Wimbledon junior title aged 15, but the pressure and the lifestyle took its toll.
“I realised that my first trip overseas was 10 years ago and it was to Paris,” she said. “It was my first taste of international tennis and my God it was terrible, it was scary, I hated every minute.”
By 18, Barty had had enough, and she stepped away from the sport for nearly two years, trying her hand at professional cricket and enjoying being a normal teenager.
In 2016, she decided she was ready to return to the court and the journey that has now carried her to a grand slam title began at a small tournament in Eastbourne three years ago this week.
“I was very nervous,” she said. “I didn’t even know if I’d get in the draw. I only got in because it wasn’t full.
“I remember at the end of that week my body was shot. It feels like yesterday we were there but in the same breath it also feels like it was a lifetime ago.”
Her coach, Craig Tyzzer, remembers the week well.
“We’d done a 12-week training block and she was so out of shape it wasn’t funny,” he said. “I didn’t expect her to win too many matches.”
Barty is always quick to credit the team around her for her success and Tyzzer has been by her side ever since she returned to tennis.
“It doesn’t matter how much talent you have, you get to this level and you’ve got to work your butt off, and Ash does,” he said.
“We’re continuing to improve lots of areas in Ash’s game, both on and off the court, and I think it’s really shown this year.
“And we’re not going to stop. In this game you can’t sit still and she knows that. Her feet are firmly planted on the ground.
“You only have to look at the age of the girls who got through here. It just shows the depth in women’s tennis, which is great.”
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