Ash Barty’s start to 2019 has been nothing short of amazing, highlighted by a win at Miami, one of the WTA’s premier events rated just one rung below the Grand Slams, and subsequent entry into the world’s top ten.
However, scratch below the surface a bit and her rise becomes even more impressive.
The 2019 Porsche Race to Shenzen relates to the WTA finals played at the end of the season between the world’s top eight players. The Race is held over the calendar year, meaning that ranking points are accumulated from the 1st of January.
On this basis, Ash Barty is No 4 in the world, behind only Petra Kvitova, Naomi Osaka and Karolina Pliskova. Of the top ten in that list, Barty is the only player to have participated in just four tournaments so far.
Including the Federation Cup, which does not count towards the Porsche Cup rankings, Barty has played 22 singles matches this year. She has won 19 of them. Petra Kvitova, by comparison, has 20 wins and six losses for the year. If Barty had played the same amount of tournaments as Kvitova, she might well have been at the lead of the Porsche Race.
Over this period, she has beaten seven top ten players, so there is no doubt that Ash Barty deserves her place among the WTA’s elite.
What makes her so good? Well, for a start, she seems to have an unflappable temperament. While there are plenty of things going inside a tennis player’s mind, outwardly at least she is calm. There are no broken racquets. After her self imposed exile from the sport, Barty knows how lucky she is.
Her doubles background also helps. It’s given her an all-court game that she can employ when things aren’t working from the baseline. If there is a better volleyer in WTA tennis, I’d be surprised. She also possesses a backhand slice that sets her apart from most others on the tour.
However, what has really stood out for me watching her this year is her serve. The stats demonstrate this. Barty is not a noted big server but her first serve placement is possibly the best in the game. In 2019, she has served the sixth highest number of aces on tour, behind the top three players in the Porsche Race.
Most impressively though, she is top of the ladder in terms of per cent of points won on both her first and second serve. This leads to her position at the top of the list for service holds, coming in at 79.4 per cent. Arguably, Barty has the best serve in the WTA at the moment. It’s not the fastest, but the stats show that it is the most effective.
Her return figures aren’t as impressive but at 46.1 per cent points won, she is still in the top 20 in the world. That percentage is higher than the first three in the Porsche Race. With a serve as good as Barty’s, she doesn’t need many serve breaks in a set to close them out.
So, can Ash Barty keep this level up? Barty’s clay-court history is not that good, although she was unlucky to run into Serena Williams in the second round at Roland Garros last year. She won at Nottingham on the grass in 2018 but has yet to reach the second week at Wimbledon.
I’ve got no doubt that, given a reasonable draw, she will get there this year. Will she win? Probably not in my opinion.
I think Ash Barty will win the US Open. Her composure given the noisy New York crowd, added to an all-court game backed by the best serve on tour, will be enough for her to become a Grand Slam winner. Let’s hope so anyway.