Tennis

From flat whites to Aussie rules football: 5 things to know about tennis world No.1 Ashleigh Barty

Barty is a national hero in Australia, but did you know she briefly left tennis – and played pro cricket? Find out that and much more about the current women's world No.1.

By Nick McCarvel ·

Come on in to the Barty Party, everyone.

World No.1 Ashleigh Barty started playing tennis at age four in suburban Brisbane, and by the time she was 14 she was the junior Wimbledon champion – and hailed as a “next big thing” by many within the sport.

Her transition into the pro ranks wasn’t seamless, however, and in 2014 she left the game indefinitely, voicing a want for less travel, more time at home with family and a chance to check in on her mental health.

MORE: Read about Barty's winding road to world No.1

After her return to tennis in early 2016 Barty soared, claiming her first singles title before capturing the 2018 U.S. Open doubles trophy and claiming the 2019 French Open singles crown, her first major.

The Australian national sporting hero now has 10 career singles titles, the most recent coming at the Miami Open just last week (3 April 2021). She has maintained the world No.1 ranking on the WTA for 70 weeks, and looks to make her Olympic debut at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021.

“It’s a massive priority,” Barty said in January. “[I dream] every single day [about the Olympics]... I’ve missed out a couple of times by the skin of my teeth. ... I think it would be very, very cool to call myself an Olympian.”

Here, five things you didn’t know about “Ash”, who each January leads an unofficial national “Barty Party” as the country comes together for the Australian Open.

Ash Barty - An Australian national hero

It’s hard to find anyone in the island nation of 25 million who hasn’t heard of Barty – much less who doesn’t have an affinity for her.

She’s the three-time winner of the Newcombe Medal, the country’s most prestigious tennis award, and in 2020 was named the Young Australian of the Year, the top award for Australians under 30.

In 2021, Barty had surpassed all other international and domestic athletes in terms of her marketability in the country, No.2 on the list – behind only Roger Federer.

Barty comes from an Indigenous Australian background, and is a National Indigenous Ambassador for Tennis Australia, having a special link to another Indigenous champion of the sport, Evonne Goolagong Cawley.

Tennis legend Evonne Goolagong Cawley in front of a Barty mural in Darwin, Australia, 2019

Barty left tennis – and found pro cricket

Barty’s departure from pro tennis in September of 2014 made headlines, as the then-18-year-old had reached three Grand Slam doubles finals with good friend and mentor Casey Dellacqua.

Having made her debut at the Australian Open in 2012 at 15, Barty had peaked in the rankings at No.129 in 2013 and – when she walked away from the sport – was ranked No.216.

The reason for her exit at such a young age was unclear: A hiatus? A retirement? Once back home, she turned to a beloved sport in Australia, cricket. She played for a professional women’s team, the Brisbane Heat, in the newly-launched Women's Big Bash League (WBBL) in 2015.

The announcement that she was coming back to pro tennis came in early 2016.

Loves a perfect flat white

There is plenty about Barty that makes her a “true blue Australian,” including her love of a perfect flat white, the espresso drink that much of the nation is fueled by.

From Melbourne to Doha to Miami to Paris to New York, Barty says she always tries to find “a new local” for her morning caffeine boost.

Her go-to coffee shop during the Australian Open? That would be a side street cafe called The Pound, located in the South Yarra district of Melbourne. And it turns out Barty is a pretty sage expert: The Pound was voted the neighborhood’s favourite joint in Feb. 2021.

"Short and strong, that's all I need," Barty said of her drink order in a 2019 on-court interview. "It's Melbourne, there's good coffee every 20 metres."

Ashleigh Barty: Family first – and her dogs, too

Barty’s time away from tennis was spent primarily with her family, whom she remains close with, including sisters Sara and Ali, each who have children.

“Aunty” Ash famously had niece Olivia, then only a baby, in her lap with her at a press conference at the Australian Open in 2020, having just lost in the semi-finals.

"She brought a smile to my face as soon as I came off the court," Barty said of her niece, keeping things in perspective. "I feel good."

Barty has a family of her own, too, with partner Garry Kissick: Several dogs they call “the wolfpack.” Origi, the newest addition, as well as Affie, Chino, Rudy, and (perhaps) others.

Barty has partnered with local animal shelters to help with adoption drives for both dogs and cats in recent years.

Is there any sport she can’t play?

While it was cricket that Barty took on during her time away from tennis, she could have seemingly turned her hands to a host of other sports.

In September of 2020, she won her local club championships in golf and has a 3.9 handicap – impressively low.

She often can be seen warming up for pro tennis matches with an American football or Aussie rules ball, tossing the ball around as part of her stretching routine.

Australian rules football was a demonstration sport at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. The AFL, the professional men's league in Aussie rules is where her heart lies. Her favourite team? The Richmond Tigers.

Barty, who in the past had admitted to waking up in the middle of the night to watch her beloved club, had the honour of presenting the team with its premiership trophy in October 2020.