World number one, playing at home in a Grand Slam event. Only a few have been in that situation. Serena Williams, Andy Murray, Amelie Mauresmo, Lleyton Hewitt and of Ash Barty since the turn of the Millennium as did Pete Sampras in 1998.
Being world number one at home in a major brings pressure and expectation but is that relaxed this year for Ash Barty at Melbourne Park?
I don’t think so, tennis isn’t a sport that stands still even during the times when there was no tennis there isn’t time to catch-up what was missed.
I definitely see there being an incredible atmosphere for the home players at the Australian Open and the Barty Party will be in full swing!
When tennis returned in 2020, Ash didn’t. She opted to stay home for the safety of herself, those at home and her team which was the right decision for her. Even travelling in Australia for some time was prohibited which meant the world number one couldn’t even train with her coach Craig Tyzzer until recently.
Having seen Ash play in Adelaide just last week against Simona Halep there was a lot of positives for her to take away from the match. Ash did say she missed it and craved the training which had become a huge part of her life.
Simona Halep herself said that she played well having not played for almost a year but is it enough and is there less pressure and expectation?
I don’t think so. 2019 was her last full year on the tour which now feels like a lifetime ago. In that year she won in Miami, Birmingham, WTA Finals and Roland Garros so hasn’t had that back-up and test in a year as she only featured a handful of times in 2020.
If anything this year is that follow-up and chance to back it up with another stellar year, there may be less pressure in Melbourne but there will still be expectations this summer in Melbourne and throughout the season.