Ashleigh Barty has lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the semi-finals of the Cincinnati Masters, missing the chance to reclaim to regain the No.1 ranking.
Ash Barty is on the verge of something truly remarkable. With the Australian sports media still caught up in the antics of Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic, you’d be forgiven for not being aware.
With her victory over Danielle Collins in the second round at Roland Garros, she will go into this year’s Wimbledon ranked no lower than No.6 in the world. With not a lot of ranking points to defend before the end of 2019, a year-end ranking of inside the top five is within reach.
The last time an Australian woman achieved that feat was way back in 1984. Samantha Stosur got within the top five in 2010 and 2011 but didn’t finish there.
No, the last Australian to reach the year-ending WTA top five was Wendy ‘Rabbit’ Turnbull, who finished 1984 ranked No.5 in the world off the back of semi-final appearances at the Australian and US Opens.
The world’s changed a bit since way back in 1984, famous for being the year the Apple Macintosh first went on sale, the CD-ROM was invented, Medicare was introduced and the $1 note was replaced with a coin.
No.1 on the ARIA charts at this time of the year was a battle between 99 Luftballons, Footloose and Eat It. Weird Al Yankovic. Now there’s a name from the past.
The Australian Open was played on grass at Kooyong and the NSW Open was still played at White City in Rushcutters Bay.
It’s been 35 years between drinks. But she is a big chance to do it, and here’s why.
Barty’s quarter-final appearance in the Australian Open and breakthrough win at the Miami Open all occurred in 2019.
To crack the top five, she has to perform better at the remaining events than she did in 2018.
Post Wimbledon, she will be defending semi-final appearances at Montreal and Wuhan in China, along with a win at the season-ending event in Zhuhai. It’s hard to see Barty playing her last event for 2019 at anywhere other than Shenzhen, where the WTA finals are to be held this year.
Leaving aside the French Open, there are points to be gained at Wimbledon and the US Open.
After good lead-up form leading into Wimbledon last year, including a win at Nottingham, Barty fell in the third round to the then-14 seed Daria Kasatkina. With her higher ranking going in this year, she won’t play anyone in the world’s top 16 until at least the fourth round.
The US Open result was better, reaching the fourth round before being bundled out by Karolina Pliskova in straight sets. With her US hard court form really strong leading into the clay court season, many experts are predicting that she could give the US grand slam a real shake in 2019.
Other than that, underwhelming results in Cincinnati and Tokyo further open the door for Barty. But it is clear that Wimbledon and the US Open will decide whether Ash Barty will create some history in 2019.
The first Australian women to crack the WTA year ending top five in singles since 1984 – 35 years. The way she is going this year, you’d be brave to bet against her achieving it.
The Barty party may just keep rolling on. After 35 years, we’d have to get Weird Al to perform.