‘She has all the shots and her repertoire is so big’
ONCE dubbed the next Martina Hingis, Ashleigh Barty has now won over the Swiss Miss with the classy old-school game that has propelled the Australian to the summit of women's tennis.
Former Australian Fed Cup captain David Taylor, one of the most respected coaches in the sport, first likened Barty's cunning court craft to Hingis' some six years ago but cautioned against overburdening the precocious teenager with expectations.
Taylor's concerns were realised several months later when Barty walked away from tennis before embarking on a spectacular comeback in 2016.
Hingis, who won the first of her 20 grand slam doubles crowns as a 15-year-old before claiming the Australian Open singles title at 16, has monitored Barty's career closely, aware of the comparisons and understanding of the Queenslander's journey.
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"I watched her when she was 16 coming on tour, or 15 when she got the wildcard into the Aussie Open," Hingis said.
"At that time, I guess, it was all overwhelming and I can understand that. When you're from Australia and you miss home, it's a long way away.
"I was lucky enough to have my family with me - my mother and (manager) Mario (Widmer), we all travelled together and we didn't really miss home.
"It's really difficult for an Australian player when you're really young to do all this and go through all of that."
Hingis believes Barty's sabbatical was the making of the now-French Open champion and world No.1.
"Since she's been away and become No.1 and won a slam, she doesn't have to prove anything to anybody," said the five-times major winner.
"Now you just feel like she's out there because she loves it and loves what she's doing and that's why she's had this success.
"Before maybe it was 'okay, I'm playing for someone else or because of someone else'."
Gushing in her praise of Barty's game, Hingis said the 23-year-old's style was a breath of fresh air for tennis.
"There's a lot of things she does that's really great, what I love about her game is just her fluidity," Hingis said.
"I think before she had all the shots but didn't always use the right things at the right time, which was good enough in juniors.
"But now I think she's kind of found herself. She's grounded now and she knows what she wants and I just love the variety about her game.
"She has all the shots and the repertoire is so big and again you can call her game tennis. It's not just boom boom and full power.
"She's got that too - obviously - she's a very strong girl - but she's also got a different style to what we've probably seen in the last 10 years."
Hingis completed an Australian Open title hat-trick during a run of six successive finals in Melbourne between 1997 and 2002 and believes Barty as top seed in 2020 is equipped to handle the home-town hype and pressure.
"She's going through that right now so I think she knows it best. You need a great support team. That's really important," said the former world No.1.
"Now that she's a bit older - I mean I was 16 thrown into it - so it was a bit different."