The young Aussie Ashleigh Barty has enjoyed a stellar season so far, winning the first Major crown at Roland Garros and becoming world no. 1. The Ipswich native has secured the year-end no. 1 spot, reaching the semi-final at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen on debut and seeking another notable title ahead of the Fed Cup final in Perth against France in ten days.
Besides her on-court activities, Barty has also become a part of a national #PlayForYou campaign, encouraging the young girls to embrace tennis and chase what she achieved over the years. By one survey from 2018, every third girl quit playing tennis at the age of 18, unable to deal with the pressure and all the demands of the modern sport.
The campaign is a part of $12 million of Federal Government funding announced in January, targeting increased opportunities for women and girls in tennis and a more significant number of female coaches. Ashleigh is joined in the campaign by six girls at the age of 13 or 14 and her three-year-old niece, Lucy, with the campaign running across the summer.
"This campaign is very close to my heart, I think it's beautiful because it encourages girls all across the nation to get involved, choose their path and not listen to societal pressures. I was told a few times along the way that I was too short of making it," said Barty.
"I have always loved playing sport and remember picking up a racquet for the first time when I was five. I love all sports, and have made so many friends and met so many wonderful people through my tennis journey. I feel very fortunate for the opportunities tennis has provided me.
Aside from the obvious health benefits, sport is a fantastic way to develop confidence and feel good by doing something physical. I hope to see more girls take up sport, whatever they choose. You don't have to be a professional athlete to experience the gifts sport delivers.
The most important thing is having a go and having fun and if one girl decides to play sport – or not give up playing sport – then I'll be extremely happy." "We know girls often feel intimidated joining a sports club or exercising in public and we want to remove as many barriers to participation as possible," Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said.
"Ash Barty is the perfect role model for young girls to challenge the status quo. She is an unconventional champion who dared to do it her way."