Aside from it being a desperately difficult summer for Australia with the catastrophic bushfires, Barty happens to be the most popular sports person in the country all of a sudden, not to mention the No. 1 player in the world. Plainly, she can barely move without a camera going off or a dozen heads turning.
More than 40 years have passed since the last Australian woman, Chris O’Neil, won the national
Open at Kooyong in 1978, a statistic that was thrown in Barty’s face today as well. She brushed it aside, a skill she has refined. “Like you said, it’s a long way away,’’ she said, gently chiding the reporter for his impertinence.
Barty made the quarter-finals here last year, but so much has changed since then. A grand slam
victory in Paris, for instance, and the climb to No. 1, a feat not achieved by an Australian since
Lleyton Hewitt and one she finds astonishing “every morning” when she wakes up.
Her predecessor as the preeminent Australian female player, Samantha Stosur, infamously found
playing at home insufferably suffocating. Barty herself takes the attitude that she will take it, and
“You can (feel pressure), but I think it’s also important to enjoy it,” she said. “It’s important to embrace it. Enjoy everything that comes along with it. You don’t get to play an Australian Open
every single week; you don’t get to play a Grand Slam every single week. And I won’t be out here
forever playing these Grand Slams every few months of the year, so I’m looking forward to getting out here. For me it’s easy to normalise it. It’s pretty simple in that I’ve got – in my biased opinion – the best team on the tour and they look after me very well.”
The crowds can only help her, she says. “It’s a feeling when you walk out on the court, it’s almost electric that the crowd’s involved, and I’ve got so much love and support from the crowd, it’s amazing. When they get really invested in a match, it’s really special.’’
Pressure? What pressure? The late, great cricket all-rounder and world war II fighter pilot Keith
Miller’s classic line comes to mind: “Pressure’s a Messerschmitt up your arse”.
Barty just wants to bring it on. She began her media conference with “how yer goin’?” to the first reporter to venture a question. The first word she used to describe her feelings was “excitement”, appropriately enough.
“There’s no extra pressure,’’ she said. “I don’t read the papers, I don’t look into any more than I
need to. I’m here with my team trying to do the best that we can and it’s amazing to have so much support and so much love for the Australian public and I’ve really felt that in an exceptional way in
the last 12 months. It’s been incredible.”