Ashleigh Barty: ‘The stars have aligned a little bit for me’

Ashleigh Barty Birmingham Day 2

Ashleigh Barty won her ninth match in a row as she defeated an unsettled Jennifer Brady 6-3 6-1 in a match that was consistently delayed due to rain.

Barty impressed in her first match back on the grass in the first round, showing her effortless transition to a new surface, but I feel like this was an even greater step in the right direction for as she exceled in most departments.

The French Open champion salvaged the solitary break of the first set in the fifth game. As the match really began to take shape, she ran away with it and was by far the superior player in a lot of the exchanges from the baseline.

Barty is often renowned for what she can do from the service line. In her opener against Nottingham finalist Donna Vekic, Barty was struggling with her first serve percentage, striking just 52% of those first serves into each point. This match, she improved drastically in that department, making 71% of first serves and winning 82% of those points. It’s a weapon she used well on the Paris clay courts just two weeks ago, but on these speedy grass courts she can really race through a lot of her service games.

Brady’s biggest strengths are obvious to many, with her serve being perhaps her strongest weapon of choice, but also she can fly through games with the aggressiveness of her forehand side at times. The great things that Barty did well in this match were to really apply pressure on the backhand, prevent Brady from stepping in and crunching forehands regularly, and ultimately make the American play her weaker shots in defensive areas of the court. On top of that, Brady also loves to utilise the kick serve on a hard court, but in these sort of conditions, where the grass courts produce a much lower bounce, it just isn’t anywhere near as effective. Brady’s attempts gave the Australian time to pick her choice of shot and then control the point from there.

I think the most pleasing aspect of Barty’s game will be the improvement on serve. The Australian will know that when she gets the first ball into a rally more often than not she will be the victor in the point, but making sure that the percentage is nice and high actually restricts her opponent from finding any opportunity in the matchup and it proved the case with the American in this encounter.

Barty was also efficient off the ground. Precise in her decision-making, opportunistic when the big points came along, she ultimately made just 12 unforced errors in the baseline exchanges. Brady’s unforced error count of 22 really went through the roof in the second set as she became more erratic, more impatient, but also uncomfortable when setting up for her shots.

Barty speaks about the win

Thoughtful with her answers in press, the Australian broke down the things she executed well in her second match, discussed her evolution as a player in the last eighteen months and the way in which she’s handling it.

“Yeah, I felt like it was a little bit better than it was yesterday. Particularly on my service games, I felt like I was able to look after them a lot better, play the first couple of points in those games well and get my nose in front. Overall, a really clean match. You know, I’m pretty happy to come away with it with the couple of delays we did have. Oh, obviously she’s got, you know, a serve that can look after her service games very quickly. When she gets on a roll, she can win a lot of points in a row and get that first kind of serve-and-forehand combination into the rally and put those points away quickly. She’s got a good slice, as well.

“It was important for me to try and expose her as much as I could and bring it back to my strengths. Yeah (the backhand slice), it’s a shot that I try and implement on the grass a little bit more than other surfaces just because of the reaction that you do get off of the surface. It’s a good neutralizer for me when I’m in trouble, but I also try and use it in an attacking way as much as I can, as well. A shot I learned when I was very young and certainly love to use.”

“Yeah, I feel like I’m playing some great tennis. I think the work that we have been doing over the last, you know, 12 to 18 months in particular but over the last three years is kind of all coming together.The stars have aligned a little bit for me, and I think when you get those opportunities you have to do your best to take them with both hands. That’s what we have been able to do over the last month in particular, but, yeah, I mean, I feel like I’m comfortable in my own skin. I feel like I know exactly how I want to play in most matches, and it’s just about going out there trying to execute as best I can.”

With Naomi Osaka’s shocking loss in the second round, Ashleigh Barty now can guarantee her place at the top of the world rankings for the first time in her career by winning the title this week.

Main Photo from Getty