AUSTRALIA’S first WTA world No.1 Evonne Goolagong Cawley says as a fellow indigenous woman she’s proud of the success of Ashleigh Barty.
Barty becomes the first Australian woman to take the top tennis mantle in almost half a century by claiming her third title of 2019.
The 23-year-old joined her mentor and indigenous idol Goolagong Cawley as only the second Australian to reach No.1 since the WTA rankings were introduced in 1973.
A seven-times grand slam champion, Goolagong Cawley sat at No.1 for a fortnight in 1976.
Goolagong Cawley said French Open champion Barty deserved her place atop women’s tennis.
“In 2019, with all the pieces in place, her rise has been almost unstoppable,” Goolagong Cawley said in a statement on Monday.
“Ash is a very worthy No.1 and winning at the French will have given her even more confidence.
“I am so proud that another Aboriginal player sits on top of the rankings in women’s tennis, particularly a young lady who conveys such happiness in all she does.”
Goolagong Cawley said Barty was an “inspirational example” to all Australians.
Compatriot and 2011 US Open winner Sam Stosur says Barty’s laid-back and rounded attitude will hold her in good stead as she prepares to go into the Wimbledon glare as top seed.
“She is playing fantastic and grass is a surface that she openly says she can’t wait to get on every year,” Stosur said.
“I don’t think she went to the French thinking she had a shot which is maybe why she went there and put no pressure on herself, she was just playing it and enjoying it, and getting through the rounds and suddenly she’s won a grand slam.
“Wimbledon will be a different scenario. When she stopped it was because she didn’t like that spotlight on her and the pressure and didn’t like all that attention.
“But she’s matured and grown massively in that department since she returned to play. If you are going to win a slam you must be better at that.
“I’m sure she’s doing all she can to be prepared for the extra stuff that will be happening and she will work her way through it.”
Tennis Australia staff gathered at Melbourne Park to toast the popular star with boss Craig Tiley saying if Barty stayed healthy she could hold the crown for a considerable time and add to her haul with another grand slam title this year.
“It was the clay (French Open) where she wasn’t supposed to doing it first, according to all the experts, and grass where she’s most comfortable” Tiley said.
“I think the top women players aren’t used to the type of game that she has … I think that’s what is putting her at a high level quickly – while the other players figure out how to play her I think they will continue to struggle.”
Her new status earned praise from within the tennis world, with former greats Billie Jean King, who won 39 grand slam titles, and Chris Evert congratulating Barty.
“No. 1, @ashbar96. With incredible versatility, perseverance, and focus, Ash Barty is an inspiration to the next generation of young players in Australia. Well done!,” tweeted King, who won 39 grand slam titles.
Fellow former No.1 Evert also praised Barty on Twitter: “A big congratulations to @ashbar96 Tremendous story, talent, and most importantly, person…”