Exclusive – Ashleigh Barty hailed as new leader of women’s tennis by former British No 1s

Kevin Palmer
Ashleigh Barty press conference

Ashleigh Barty has now emerged from the pack to establish herself as the player to beat in the women’s game, according to former British No 1s Annabel Croft and Tim Henman.

The Australian captured her first Wimbledon title last month and heads into the US Open as the outstanding favourite, with Croft telling Tennis365 that the world No 1 is now the shining light of the game.

“You could literally have named 20 players that could win Slams before they have started over the last couple of years, but now Barty is the clear favourite,” Croft told us at an Amazon Prime Video event.

Annabel Croft on duty for Amazon Prime Video’s exclusive ATP & WTA coverage

“This is the first Slam in a very long time that we have a clear favourite and that would be Ash Barty. 

“She seems to be very at ease with her status in the game. It can’t be easy being Wimbledon champion, world No 1 and coping with all the pressure and expectation that is now on her.

“Barty has such a lovely team around her. They are so down to earth, so relaxed and that is why she is so great for the game.

“Tennis players these days are massive athletes with huge power, but Barty is 5’5” and with a serve like that, her talent is phenomenal

“I just love her story. She burst onto the scene and did well in doubles, disappeared off to play another sport and now she has come back to take over the best player in the women’s game. It’s inspiring.” 

Ashleigh Barty 2021 Wimbledon champion

Another former British No 1 has also hailed the Barty effect in tennis, with Tim Henman suggesting she is the leader of a crowded field of contenders at the US Open.

“There are similarities between the men’s and women’s tours,” Henman told Tennis365.

“Barty is the clear favourite to win the US Open, she is playing brilliant tennis. She was so impressive in Cincinnati. She is in a great place physically, mentally and technically. 

“When you talk about the chasing pack, there is a list as long as your arm waiting to come through. 

“Aryna Sabalenka is No 2 and is a threat, even if she has not been at her best of late. [Naomi] Osaka is defending champion, Iga Swiatek is a threat and the same can be said of Petr Kvitova. [Barbora] Krejcikova won the French Open and we don’t know how healthy Simona Halep is going to be. 

“Put all that in the mix and it is hard to pick who will be the favourite to challenge Barty for the title in New York.

“That’s what makes the women’s game really exciting, the unpredictability. The men’s game has been predictable for a long time with three players winning 60 Slams, so it’s great to have unpredictably in the women’s game.”

The US Open is available to watch on Prime Video from Monday 30th August

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