Novak Djokovic is being coy about his plans for the Australian Open, Olympic champion Alexander Zverev is celebrating the best season of his career, while the tennis world reaches out for Peng Shuai.
Ash Barty is being lauded as an upgraded, modernised Martina Hingis as the Australian superstar accesses one of the most exclusive clubs in tennis.
Barty on Monday will enter her 100th week as world No.1, joining legends Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Serena Williams, Chris Evert, Hingis, Monica Seles and Justine Henin as only the eighth woman to achieve the feat since WTA rankings were introduced in 1976.
In a stunning five-title, six-final season highlighted by her memorable Wimbledon triumph in July, Barty has surpassed the stints atop the rankings of Lindsay Davenport (98 weeks), Caroline Wozniacki (71 weeks) and contemporary rival Simona Halep (64 weeks).
Seven-times grand slam champion Henin (117 weeks) is next in her sights, with esteemed coach and former Australian Fed Cup captain David Taylor predicting a long stay for Barty at the summit.
“Oh yeah. She’s so well-rounded. So tactically aware. Serve, forehand. There’s not a lot of weaknesses in Ash’s tennis and, if you look at the great No.1s, they’re all well-rounded like that,” Taylor told AAP.
“In this time where the women’s tour has a lot of different grand slam winners, she’s definitely brought some consistency to the No.1 spot.”
It was Taylor almost a decade ago who cautioned against overburdening a then-15-year-old Wimbledon junior champion with expectation before a mentally burnt-out Barty took a 17-month sabbatical from tennis in 2014-15.
Taylor at the time likened the precocious talent’s on-court smarts and crafty playing style to Hingis, who he helped coach to the 1999 French Open final.
Now he believes, at 25, Barty is a more powerful, superior model of the Swiss Miss.
“She’s like an upgraded version,” Taylor said.
“Still to this day, of the people I’ve coached, Martina was the most amazing how she could walk off the court and dissect a match with the clarity of a coach, an onlooker.
“And the only other person I’ve ever taught who had first-hand knowledge of that was when you talk to Ash about tennis.
“Like, she understands tennis. She’s by far the best tactician on the women’s tour. She’s so good at that.
“So (Ash has) the analytical skills of Hingis and also the variety but a better serve, obviously, than Martina and she’s able to subdue the power of her opponents, which Hingis did well.
“Ash is an improved version of Martina because she’s got a better serve, probably a better slice backhand so definitely that style of tennis but upgraded.”
In the ultimate compliment, Taylor also likened Barty to Roger Federer.
“She’s got so many ways,” he said.
“You look at Roger, he can tactically win with such an array of tactics and having coached on the WTA Tour for so long, you’re often left with quite a very narrow set of tactics for most of your players on there.
“With Ash, she’s dangerous on all surfaces, which she’s obviously already proven, and she’s won the two biggest grand slams on the most contrasting surfaces so she’s got a lot of ways to win matches.
“Definitely has a lot of massive problem-solving abilities and tactically can put girls in such challenging situations because of the breadth in her game.
“She’s the best player in the world. I’m stating the obvious but she really is the best tennis player, not just the best ball striker.
“No doubt the player of the year. The WTA has a lot of great ball strikers but she’s a great tennis player and that’s the big difference.”
MOST WEEKS AS WORLD NO.1 SINCE WOMEN’S TENNIS RANKINGS WERE INTRODUCED IN 1976:
1.Steffi Graf (377)
2.Martina Navratilova (332)
3.Serena Williams (319)
4.Chris Evert (260)
5.Martina Hingis (209)
6.Monica Seles (178)
7.Justine Henin (117)
8.Ash Barty (99)
9.Lindsay Davenport (98)
10.Caroline Wozniacki (71)