Ash Barty has been the ladies’s singles tennis world primary for 70 weeks now, however you could possibly be forgiven for considering there was an official asterisk subsequent to the Australian’s identify.
The WTA “froze” the rankings system final 12 months amid the COVID-19 pandemic, permitting gamers to rely their greatest 16 tournaments courting again to March 2019 as a substitute of the same old 52-week cycle.
This has allowed Barty to hold on to rankings factors, regardless of opting to overlook a lot of the 2020 season because of security issues, and led to criticism from some quarters that the Australian star was a “fill-in” at primary till issues bought again to regular.
However a take a look at what has occurred in girls’s tennis in 2021 — and previous to that — reveals Barty is in the suitable spot within the rankings.
Her latest victory at the Stuttgart Open makes her the one participant — man or lady — to have received three tour titles in 2021.
As well as, Barty hasn’t misplaced to a top-10 participant since being crushed by Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens within the WTA Finals spherical robin match in Shenzhen in 2019. When she faces elite opponents, there’s nearly an expectation that she is going to get the job completed.
This 12 months, Barty received the Yarra Valley Traditional lead-up occasion to the Australian Open.
Her tilt on the Open fell on the quarter-final stage with a loss to Karolína Muchová, however since then she has raised her recreation.
When the tour moved to the USA for an early hardcourt swing, Barty turned up on the Miami Open and confirmed she was the in-form participant.
On her technique to the title, the Australian beat three top-10 gamers — Aryna Sabalenka, Elina Svitolina and Bianca Andreescu.
Barty’s mindset helps hold her on prime
There was a hiccup in Charleston, the place she misplaced within the quarter-finals to Spain’s Paula Badosa. However in Stuttgart, Barty confirmed once more that her means — and her mindset — is able to protecting her on the prime.
As soon as once more, she defeated three top-10 gamers on the way in which to the title. She had the higher of Karolína Plíšková, Svitolina and Sabalenka, even when challenged and falling behind in numerous matches.
The Australian appeared to remain calm and relaxed, discovering her method again into contests. Within the wake of her Stuttgart win, she spoke about having fun with her tennis, and the significance of her mindset.
“This week’s been phenomenal for me,” she mentioned after the ultimate.
The following merchandise on the agenda for the Australian is to win extra grand slam titles, beginning with the French Open at Roland Garros in a month’s time.
It is laborious to gauge the place her rivals are at — there is not even an official gamers’ checklist or draw on the WTA web site but for the Madrid Open, which begins on Thursday.
Nonetheless there needs to be a greater concept after that event who the shape gamers are, earlier than the Italian Open main into Roland Garros.
The likes of Simona Halep, Iga Świątek, Pliskova, Svitolina and Bertens are sturdy clay-court gamers who will doubtless be in the way in which of a second Barty triumph, to not point out her major rival for the primary spot, Naomi Osaka.
However Barty has already crushed most of those gamers in her top-10 successful streak, and has defeated a few them on clay.
Wanting extra extensively, Barty has proven her consistency and talent to win on all surfaces. Except for her hardcourt and claycourt titles, the Queenslander received the Birmingham event on grass just a few weeks after her French Open triumph in 2019.
As a comparability, Osaka — seen by many because the pure primary after her dominant performance at this year’s Australian Open — has solely received tournaments on hardcourt.
Assuming the WTA Tour can keep away from one other shutdown via COVID, we should always get a chance to reply any remaining questions on Barty’s standing with three extra grand slam titles nonetheless to come back this 12 months.
A poor efficiency in Paris would put her underneath stress. However for now, with the Australian assuming early favorite standing for the French Open, it is as much as Barty’s rivals to lift their video games and attempt to take the mantle off her.