Ash Barty’s rise to the top a testament of character and persistence

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Ash Barty’s rise to the top a testament of character and persistence

If the WTA winner’s circle has been an open playing field, Ashleigh Barty has established herself as the rising champion among the handful of contenders. The Australian bagged the biggest prize in tennis—with the WTA Finals paycheck of $4.42 million—to go along with her status as the world No.

1. Is there any doubt that the resilient, unflappable player is the one to beat heading into 2020?

"A lot of people talk about her talent and her tennis, but talent only gets you so far and it's really her character that has taken her to where she is right now," explained Ash Barty’s coach Craig Tyzzer in Shenzhen, according to the Australian Association Press, via 7News Australia.

"I'm lucky enough on a daily basis to see what sort of person she is and she's a much better person than she is a tennis player”.

It’s been a remarkable year for the Ipswich native, both beginning and ending strong.

She started out in the Sydney International premiere event by making the final, progressed to the quarters at her home country’s slam, and made everyone stand up and pay attention with her Premiere victory at the Miami Masters in March of this year.

If there’s been a criticism of the current open field of challengers, it’s been consistency to stay on top. On the other hand, the new guard has offered a refreshing, highly competitive answer to what happens to the women’s game when legendary Serena Williams retires.

Barty’s answered the detractors who perhaps dismissed her breakthroughs early this year. It’s her persistent, nonplussed spirit that has kept her laser focused on following up those wins with even more impressive ones.

"That's the beauty of life, the beauty of the journey that we're on - every day you can try and improve yourself," said Barty after winning the WTA Finals. "That's probably, tennis aside, the biggest part of my development over the last two or three years.

I feel like I've become a better person”. The 23-year-old further staked her claim to greatness by persevering on her least successful surface, clay, getting to the quarters in Madrid, winning the doubles title in Rome with partner Victoria Azarenka, and against-all-odds her maiden slam at Roland Garros.

She also collected the top spot on the WTA rankings list after her slam breakthrough win. Perhaps the biggest surprise occurred once she hit the summer grass courts, considered a natural fit for the Aussie. But despite winning her second WTA title at Birmingham, she went out in the fourth round at Wimbledon to Alison Riske.

She could have easily been relegated to the slew of players who have only won one slam, but her stick-to-itness has seen her push through a hard-fought brilliant close to her tennis season, making the semis at Wuhan, the final in Shanghai, and finally the WTA Finals trophy in Shenzhen, China.

Barty is also the first Australian to win the WTA culminating event since Evonne Goolagong Cawley did it in 1976, a player she has always idolized. She also ends the year at the summit of her game, retaining the world No. 1 status.

"That stems from my mum and dad, without a doubt," Barty said in Shenzhen. "Mum and dad have taught me everything that I've learned in life. They taught me the values to live by. I feel like I have very strong values because of them”.

It takes a strong mind to leave the game—as she did three years ago to play professional cricket—and come back sharper. At age 23, the French Open champion will surely not remain a singular major winner. The Queenslander will continue to shine in 2020 and is destined to add to her already extraordinary glory.

Next up for the WTA Finals winner is the Fed Cup match against France for Australia’s first Fed Cup title in 45 years.

A dependable, but relentless team player, it was Ash Barty’s crucial unbeaten performance in the semis in April that put her country back in contention. Her confidence has only grown since then and she will be the rock for her team seeking the breakthrough decades’ long anticipated victory. If anyone can pull Team Australia through, it’s sure to be the top player in the women’s game.