The rise and rise of homegrown tennis great Ash Barty has been nothing short of remarkable. After a brief hiatus from the courts in favour of playing professional cricket with the Brisbane Heat, the Ipswich native would storm the singles and doubles rankings – finishing inside the Top 20 for both despite in 2017 despite starting the season outside #250 – become a three-time Grand Slam singles champion, as well as securing the WTA throne along the way. But six years ago, none of this was even remotely within the realm of consideration for her. In fact, six years ago, you could book tennis lessons with Ash Barty for just $16.50.
The fascinating revelation was brought to mainstream attention by an Aussie poster on Twitter, whose niece’s daughter was treated to such an experience for primary school sport in Graceville. Hosted at the West Brisbane Tennis Centre, according to the sign-up pamphlet retweeted by journalist Ben Rothenberg, the program was run by Barty herself alongside childhood coach Jim Joyce.
“Kids were pretty spoiled… I think it might cost a bit more than that now,” Jim Joyce tells 4BC.
“She was coaching ladies, older women as well and was just loving it. I was going, ‘I’ve got to get her back [into playing professional tennis].’ But you couldn’t force her into it – it had to come from her.”
“I needed to take that time away. I felt like came back a better tennis player… that 18 months off was vital.”Ash Barty (2019)
Ash Barty has since enlisted the services of former ATP player Craig Tyzzer – who has been serving as her coach since returning circa 2016 – but recently reunited with Jim Joyce around the same time as her victory against Italian talent Camila Giorgi during this year’s Australian Open.
“The big fella’s actually surprised me today,” Barty revealed in her post-match interview at Rod Laver Arena.
“Jim – my first coach – he flew down, and I saw him about an hour before my match. I said, ‘Mate… what are you doing here?’
“It was nice of him to be here. He challenged me to be the most complete player I could be.”
“It would have been the biggest tragedy in tennis in Australia, if not sport, if she hadn‘t come back and played – and just never played again,” Joyce noted elsewhere.
“It would have been the biggest waste. I knew she had the ability… what a tragedy that would have been if she never played again.”
From $16.50 tennis lessons to sporting greatness, the Ash Barty story is certainly one for the ages.