Waiting for the first champion at the home Major in Melbourne since 1978, the eyes of one of the greatest tennis nation will be set on Ashleigh Barty from January 20, with world no. 1 chasing the second Major crown after Roland Garros last June.
Ashleigh will kick off the new season in Brisbane on Wednesday against Maria Sharapova or a qualifier, hoping to gather momentum there and in Adelaide before heading to Melbourne as the favorite together with Karolina Pliskova, Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina, Petra Kvitova and Bianca Andreescu.
After completing her offseason preparations, Barty is ready to embrace her favorite part of the season in front of the home fans, eager to give her best and chase titles. Also, she is fully aware of the devastating bushfires that have been destroying people's homes and wildlife for weeks now, deciding to donate the entire prize money from Brisbane.
At the end of 2019, Ashleigh donated $30,000 to the RSPCA and she wants to help people who have lost their homes and family members, joining other athletes from all over the world and helping her country to deal with one of the greatest disasters in the last couple of decades.
"It is great to start the season in Brisbane, this is my backyard and I feel great here, there's nothing better than starting another Australian summer. I feel no pressure ahead of the tournaments; it is about enjoying this time of the year; as a Grand Slam nation, we are fortunate to be able to get the support here in Australia.
It is a special feeling to start the season at home, spending a couple of great weeks and sleeping in your bad even if you lose early at any of the events. There have been some nice initiatives from the tennis players, cricketers and other athletes and people from all over the country who are willing to donate and fight against those bushfires.
I saw the first fires from the plane while traveling back home from the Fed Cup final, which was in early November, and they have been going on for a couple of months. It was nice to donate to the RSPCA Australia back then and that the first funds have been used. Now, we also have to help people who have lost their homes and families."