By Nick Mulvenney
SYDNEY (Reuters) – “No worries” is one of Australia’s more notable contributions to the English language but Ash Barty has preferred the mantra “no panic stations” over the last few weeks as she hit the American hardcourts to prepare for the U.S. Open.
Along with the sort of meteoric rise Barty enjoyed when she won the French Open in June comes a corresponding frenzy at any subsequent setback, as if every defeat was the start of a catastrophic spiral back down to earth.
The 23-year-old Australian, though, has given every indication that she will greet such reverses with the same grounded outlook which won her so many fans when she triumphed at Roland Garros.
Yes, the purple patch of form that won her a maiden Grand Slam crown, her first Premier title at Miami and the Birmingham tournament in the first five months of the year did eventually come to an end.
And yes, the world number one ranking came and went too, with her hopes of wresting it back to take top seeding at the U.S. Open foundering last weekend with defeat to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Cincinnati Masters semi-finals.
But for Barty it has all been a learning experience as she looks to get back into her stride after taking the best part of a month off in the wake of last-16 exit at Wimbledon.
“I think at times I played some good stuff. At times I played some pretty awful stuff,” she said after Saturday’s Cincinnati semi-final.”But to be here in a semi, to give yourself another opportunity at the business end of a tournament is always a good thing.
“We have learned a lot from this week, and we have nothing but positives going into New York.”
Barty’s all-court style was always supposed to suit grass best but it was at Flushing Meadows where she first reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam last year, going out to Karolina Pliskova as 18th seed.
Much water has passed under the bridge since then, of course, and Barty will be seeded second next week and expected to go deep into the tournament almost as a matter of right.
Such expectation is not a problem.
“I’m comfortable in my own skin, comfortable with my team,” added Barty, who has taken to using plural pronouns to discuss her game so as to include her all-important support staff.
“And obviously when we play our best tennis, I think we can do damage in tournaments and be at the latter stages of tournaments, which is what we are after.
“I think (the) most exciting thing is we are learning and growing every week.”
Fears that Barty could disappear into the pack just as quickly as she emerged from it are not unfounded.
There has been no shortage of one-slam wonders and fleeting world number ones in women’s tennis over the last decade and many of them have worked as hard at their game as Barty does.
Ultimately, it may well end up being her ability to keep her head, both on court and away from it, that goes a long way to ensuring the talented Australian avoids the same fate.
“There is certainly no panic where it gets to the stage where I’m kind of overwrought or can’t think straight,” she said in Cincinnati while explaining her “no panic stations” mantra.
“I’m still able to, more than times than not, have the ability to relax and kind of stay clear and come back to what works.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford and Pritha Sarkar)