The feeling of invincibility that comes with tasting a championship in New York was the fuel Ashleigh Barty needed to step up her singles game.
The 23-year-old Australia star, who hoisted her first Grand Slam champion trophy alongside doubles partner CoCo Vandeweghe at the 2018 U.S. Open, is enjoying a breakout 2019 campaign. Barty briefly held the world No. 1 singles ranking this year after she won the Miami Open and earned her first major singles title at French Open.
Barty is chasing history in New York. With a championship in Flushing Meadows, she would become the first Australian woman to win two Grand Slam titles in one season since the legendary Margaret Court accomplished the feat in 1973.
On Monday, second-seeded Barty stepped onto the hardcourt for her first-ever singles match in Arthur Ashe Stadium, a year after reaching the fourth round as the No. 18 seed in Queens. She rallied to defeat Zarina Diyas, 1-6, 6-3, 6-2. Barty shook off 19 unforced errors in a shaky opening set and went on to play patient tennis, seizing control of the match in the second set and never looking back.
“It was about pressing too much,” Barty said of her tough start to the tournament. “I’m experienced enough walking out on big courts to let that not affect me.”
Barty’s meteoric rise over the last 12 months hasn’t changed her. During Friday’s media day, she credited her team around her for bringing her "down to earth."
"Off the court we don’t talk tennis, we enjoy each other’s company and have good banter.”
One of Barty’s off-court passions nearly took her away from tennis for good. She was highly ranked on the juniors circuit, winning the girls’ singles Wimbledon title in 2011. However, three years later, she left the sport at 16 to pursue a career in professional cricket before returning to tennis again in 2016.
Although she and her team are “glued” to watching cricket in her spare time, and she spoke about her support for her native Australia in the Cricket World Cup, Barty is focused on winning her second Grand Slam singles crown.
“I’m not here to talk about cricket,” she quipped in her post-match news conference after a second cricket-related question from reporters.
With Barty’s focus squarely on tennis and making history at the U.S. Open, she knows a tournament that has been friendly to her can turn hostile fast with a second-round matchup against American Lauren Davis looming Wednesday.
“It’s one of the tougher challenges facing an American in the U.S. Open,” Barty said. “We’ll prepare as best as we can for it.”