Barty credits WBBL after French Open win
Former Brisbane Heat teammates join the Barty Party as ex-WBBL player wins her first tennis slam at Roland Garros
9 June 2019, 11:48 AM AEST
Newly-crowned French Open champ Ashleigh Barty has credited her stint playing with Brisbane Heat's WBBL team for rescuing her career.
And even turned to a game of corridor cricket to relax as she waited for her Grand Slam final to begin.
Barty became Australia's fourth female winner at Roland Garros overnight after brushing aside Czech teen Marketa Vondrousova in straight sets just three years after returning to tennis.
After winning junior Wimbledon in 2011, Barty struggled to deal with the expectation and pressure placed upon her young shoulders and sensationally walked away from the sport disillusioned and desperate for a break.
Barty did continue to hit tennis balls during her sabbatical with junior coach Jim Joyce at West Brisbane Tennis Club but wanted to try a team sport. The Ipswich native took up cricket and started training with the Queensland Fire squad in July 2015.
The Brisbane Heat signed her after just two games for the Western Suburbs District Cricket Club in Brisbane where she proved her talents extended to cricket with an explosive 63 not out from 60 balls against University of Queensland in her second match.
After slamming a 27-ball 39 in her first match against the Melbourne Stars – the first ever match of the Rebel WBBL – Barty reached double figures only once more for the tournament, with the Heat finishing sixth in the competition.
"It's been great in cricket to come into a team environment because it's the first time I've ever experienced it and I'm loving every moment," Barty said at the time.
"I haven't really had time to get a set technique so I'm just going out there and having a swing so it was good to get some runs on the board."
After lifting the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen at Roland Garros, she said the time spent with cricketers like Australia internationals Beth Mooney, Jess Jonassen and Delissa Kimmince had a huge effect on her.
"It truly was an amazing period of my life," Barty said.
"I met an amazing group of people who couldn't care less whether I could hit a tennis ball or not.
"They accepted me, and they got to know Ash Barty. They got to know me. I still have those relationships to this very day.
"I got an amazing amount of messages over the last couple of days from those cricket girls who were some of my best friends.
"The way they are accepting of someone new coming into their locker room, into their dressing room and into their sport was amazing.
"They are truly an incredible group of girls that I know I'll have a relationship with for the rest of my life and a friendship with for the rest of my life."
Rain in Paris delayed the start of Barty's final with the men's semi-final between Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem running to a fifth set.
Barty and her team whiled away the time with an impromptu game of cricket in the gym area underneath Court Philippe Chatrier but the 23-year-old insists despite her enjoyment of the game, tennis will always remain her first love.
Proud beyond words of you my friend! Enjoy this moment because you most certainly deserve it @ashbar96. 🥳💪🏽 #BartyParty #RG19 #champion pic.twitter.com/HbcEGt1rbk— Jessica Jonassen (@JJonassen21) June 8, 2019
"I never closed any doors or said: 'I'm never playing tennis again', she said.
"For me, I needed time to step away, to live a normal life, because this tennis life certainly isn't normal.
"I think I needed time to grow as a person, to mature and I left all of my options open.
"I think it was just a natural progression for me coming back to tennis. Tennis will always be a big part of my life. I missed the competition."
Barty's coach Craig Tyzzer believes Barty would not have been able to have compete again at the highest level had she not walked away when she did.
"It was the best thing she ever did: stepping away from the sport," Tyzzer said.
"She wanted to reassess her life. For someone to be able to step back in and play at the level she has after three years out is pretty amazing."