Things to know about Ashleigh Barty as she eyes Wimbledon glory

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By AFP

LONDON: Three things on Australia’s Ashleigh Barty who faces the Czech Republic’s Karolina Pliskova for the Wimbledon title on Saturday:

Gave it a Bash

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— Barty decided out of the blue aged 18 in 2014 to take a break from tennis — she had won the junior Wimbledon title in 2011 and reached three Grand Slam doubles finals.

“I wanted to experience life as a normal teenaged girl and have some normal experiences,” she said of that decision.

She received the full support of her mentor and role model Evonne Goolagong Cawley.

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“Hey Darl. Go and wet a line,” texted Goolagong Cawley. 

However, she did not give her competitive spirit a rest as she tried her hand at cricket and turned out for the Brisbane Heat in the inaugural Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL).

“What attracted me as a coach to her as a player, was her ability to pick up things really quickly,” said Heat coach Andy Richards.

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However, after one season Barty decided it was time to return to her first sporting love, tennis. 

“After a break and trying other things, I missed tennis and decided that I wanted to come back.”

Barty the role model

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— Just as Evonne Goolagong Cawley has acted as both an inspiration and then as a mentor to Barty so she wants to do the same for younger generations of indigenous Australians.

“Evonne Goolagong Cawley has inspired me on and off the court since I was a young girl,” said Barty.

“Evonne’s outstanding achievements and her passion for helping the Indigenous community are two things I admire.”

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Barty is doing her bit as National Indigenous Tennis Ambassador, appointed by Tennis Australia in 2018 to encourage younger generations to take up tennis.

A year later, having won the French Open, the impact was seen as being potentially huge for indigenous Australians.

“She’s (Barty) a great role model from an Indigenous young girl’s point of view, having Ash as an idol, playing sport and making it — this could help them figure out what they would like to do too,” Sports Coordinator at South West Indigenous Network Kieren Gibbs told NITV News in 2019.

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Barty is intent on building on that.

“There are more opportunities for kids to play tennis, both male and female, and I hope we can continue to create those opportunities and let kids know that this is an option for a career and even if it’s not, it’s a sport that they can play for life,” said Barty.

Grass is greener with long-time boyfriend

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— Barty loves to pepper her press conferences with references to her “great team” and often uses the word “we” in tribute to them.

The 25-year-old’s boyfriend, aspiring professional golfer Gary Kissick, plays a pivotal role.

Kissick first met Barty in 2016 at a golf club and he is an ever present in the player’s box at Wimbledon and posts supportive messages on social media.

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Prior to Wimbledon he posted one of him sitting on Barty’s lap.

Barty and 30-year-old Kissick, due to Covid-19 restrictions, have been separated for long stretches but she said it was always the plan for him to come to Wimbledon.

While she largely prefers to keep the relationship away from the public eye she too is given to posting on social media from time to time.

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“Wishing the happiest of birthdays to this handsome boy. Thank you for being your cheeky and caring self every single day,” she said in 2018.

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