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‘I would love to be the champion here’: Barty aiming high at Wimbledon

“You can dare to dream, you can try and dream big. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that.”

The women’s draw is bereft of two of the world’s best three players – 2019 winner and defending champion Simona Halep due to injury and world No.2 Naomi Osaka – leaving Barty and 39-year-old superstar and seven-time winner Serena Williams vying for favouritism.

After Wimbledon skipped a year in 2020 due to the pandemic, London’s grasscourts are again ready for two weeks of tournament play. It’s been a long time between drinks on the cherished surface for Barty, too, whose return to the WTA tour this year barely skipped a beat until her Roland-Garros campaign – and one of the lead-up events on clay – were cruelled by injury.

Queenslander Barty says the hip ailment was properly diagnosed after Paris, dealt with and now she’s undoubtedly “good to go”. Reflecting on a full 24 months with the top billing in the women’s game, a period that also included time away from the tour due to COVID-19, Barty articulated her gratitude about returning to the All-England Club – and how things have changed.

“It is very different,” Barty said about the sport’s “bubble life” in 2021, replete with endless protocols.

“I feel like the world has changed a lot in the last two years.

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“The way the tournament is set up has been an adjustment.

“But certainly once you’re on the court nothing really feels like it’s changed. For me my court is still my sanctuary, it’s still my bubble where I know that I just get to go out and compete and enjoy and do what I love.

“That’s the part that I’m really looking forward to here at Wimbledon again – going out and competing on some of the most beautiful courts in the world.”

Halep is missing with an ankle injury – a complaint that also forced the Romanian out of Paris – Barty is set to have the honour of opening centre court play on Tuesday. The Queenslander has drawn Spaniard Carla Suarez Nararro, a dangerous opponent on emotion-charged ride after beating cancer. The former top-10 player is farewelling the sport after her diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma in the middle of last year.

“I wish Sim [Halep] was here to be able to experience that. She’s earned the right to open the court, open centre court on Tuesday,” Barty said.

“I’m extremely excited and humbled to have the privilege and to have the honour.”

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