Ash Barty's rise to the top of tennis is Australia's most astonishing story of this century.
Ash Barty's rise to the top of tennis is Australia's most astonishing story of this century.

Barty is this century’s most astonishing sports story

MOVIES have been made on stories less impressive than that of Ash Barty's astonishing rise to the top of the tennis world.

And she has had plenty to beat.

Anna Meares won an Olympic cycling silver medal not long after breaking her neck. Cadel Evans came from Katherine in the Northern Territory to win the Tour de France.

Jeff Horn rose from being a dorky kid bullied in the schoolyard to win a world boxing title.

And Jason Day used to have sneaky drinks with his mates at Beaudesert as an early teenager before becoming the world No 1 golfer, a remarkable climb if ever there was one.

But in terms of stories which should never happen but somehow do this tops them all, as much from where she came from as where she is now.

To give up on the sport after taking medication for depression, to head off and coach oldies and kids, to play cricket for a season and relish the team environment including the odd night with the girls at the Story Bridge or the Regatta ... and then to jump back on the bike and beat everyone.

Movies have been made on less.

 

When Barty gets nervous she has a habit of pinching her right arm but this time it is the rest of the world that is pinching itself.

Did it really happen?

One tennis commentator said the other day she had done the improbable but that's like saying Sir Edmund Hillary was quite a useful climber.

Reaching the top in tennis is one of the most challenging assignments in all of sport, especially in the modern era.

Since tennis rejoined the Olympics in 1988 it has truly become a global sport with every single tournament harder to win.

Barty is on fire, rolling through to the final at Birmingham. Picture: Getty
Barty is on fire, rolling through to the final at Birmingham. Picture: Getty

Back in 1980 the United States, Great Britain and Australia won 77 of the 122 women's WTA titles between them but now the power base has shifted far and wide with the Czech Republic and Russia winning most titles last year and Croatia, Poland, South Korea, Serbia and Belarus among teams sharing the spoils.

These days in tennis they come from everywhere. Competition is ferocious.

Barty's success is a victory for normality for one of her most appealing traits is her complete lack of pretence, an admirable trademark of sports people from her home city Ipswich.

She doesn't grunt on court. She doesn't whinge.

She likes simple pleasures like having a quiet beer, spending time with her four dogs and occasionally getting her nails done with her two sisters.

She likes her mum's curries, buying presents for her niece and cheering for the Richmond Tigers.

Watching her win a match is like watching those old fashioned black and white news reels where an Evonne Goolagong or a Rod Laver graciously accepted their win without huge fuss or fanfare.

She makes Australians feel proud she is one of us.

Long may she reign.


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