Tennis - Australian legend Todd Woodbridge and countryman Sam Groth believe that Ash Barty's win over former World No. 1 Maria Sharapova, of Russia, may have been one of the key turning points in her season - during which she claimed her first French Open title and earned the World No.
1 ranking. Barty defeated Sharapova 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the last 16 of the Australian Open in January before losing to Petra Kvitova in the quarter-finals. Speaking on Nine's new tennis program, Cross Court, Woodbridge commented, "She beat Maria Sharapova along the way to that (quarter-final) and I thought that was a moment that really stood out because she actually looked like she belonged on the world stage and actually really looked comfortable playing here in Australia.
I think that's going to be really important when she comes here as potential world No.1, No.1 seed here in January." Speaking on the same programme, Groth commented, "Isn't it funny, those one and two little moments during the year? Maria's not the player she used to be, you didn't think it was going to be this catalyst that it was; but how important it was, because of the pressure of playing at home in front of your home fans in a huge tournament.
It just was an absolute springboard for her." Barty is one of the favorites to hold the No. 1 ranking at the end of the year, and that would make her the first Australian woman since Margaret Court in 1973 to hold the No.
1 ranking at the end of the season. Groth commented, "I think we knew it was in her ability and we could see it in the future, but to make them rise from what we saw in January (was amazing). Obviously it was a huge breakthrough making the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, but to then go and win the French Open - which I probably thought was going to be her worst Grand Slam in terms of performance overtime - to get to world No.1, to lose that, to get back to world No.1 again, to go 6-0 in Fed Cup and lead Australia to the final that's going to be played in Perth in a couple of months, it's just an extraordinary year."