EASTBOURNE, England (Reuters) - How do you take a player with no ranking and who had just spent a year hitting cricket rather than tennis balls and turn her into a Grand Slam champion and world number one in three years, Ashleigh Barty’s coach Craig Tyzzer was asked on Monday.
It was a logical line of questioning on the first day of the 23-year-old Australian’s residence at the summit. But those hoping he would share the magic formula were left disappointed.
“I don’t know what the secret is. If I knew that I would be selling myself to every player on the Tour,” Tyzzer, who Barty turned to in 2016 having ended her self-imposed exile from the sport, told reporters at the Eastbourne championships on Monday.
“She has done this over a journey of three years since we started back. It was not a simple fix, you never stop, it’s not easy. You never stop improving. Credit to her she has pushed herself a lot and deserves every bit of her success.”
What he did know back then was that former junior Wimbledon champion Barty, who had struggled to deal with the expectations placed on her young shoulders, was ready to do the hard yards.
“When she approached me and said, I’m thinking of giving this another go, the look that she gave me I knew she was deadly serious about coming back,” he said.
“She want straight into a 12-week training block. She had done zero fitness in the time she was off. I said to her, this will be the test to see if you want it because it will be solid, every day. As soon as we were through that first week she was exhausted but I could see she was deadly serious.”
Barty’s first tournament back was in Eastbourne in 2016 where she came through qualifying and reached the semi-finals.
Since then the only way has been up for the Queenslander who this month became the first Australian woman to win the French Open for 46 years and on Sunday won the Birmingham grasscourt title to confirm her rise to number one in the rankings.
Now she will head to London trying to join an elite list of greats — Margaret Court, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams — to win the French Open and Wimbledon titles back-to-back.
Such is the current depth at the top of the women’s game that Tyzzer is cautious about making bold predictions, even if Barty is making a habit of exceeding expectations.
“Is there anything higher than number one? It wasn’t a goal for us,” he said. “We set goals about making it to the top 10. She cut those off in the first three months of this season.
“Just because you are number one or have won a Slam you are not going to win every match you play. There are too many good girls out there now and Ash knows that’s not realistic. She respects them and knows they are capable of beating her.
“We will just keep doing the same processes and if she plays her best she is capable of beating anybody, she is not scared of any of the girls and wants to compete as hard as she can.”
Barty pulled out of the Eastbourne tournament on Monday as a precaution to avoid aggravating an arm injury.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris