How Barty avoided major Open threat

Darren Walton |

Ash Barty bunkered down with her mother Josie (l) during the Open to avoid the risk of COVID-19.
Ash Barty bunkered down with her mother Josie (l) during the Open to avoid the risk of COVID-19.

Ash Barty has revealed the “hermit life” she endured thi summer to avoid her biggest Australian Open threat – COVID-19.

Contracting the coronavirus during the Open, or in the week before the Melbourne Park grand slam, would have been catastrophic for Australia’s big hope.

Hence why, after compatriots Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic went down with the virus in the Open lead-up, Barty bunkered down in Melbourne with her golfer-fiance Garry Kissick and mother Josie.

As she rolled through the draw without dropping a set, match after match all the way to the final, the world No.1 was ever aware that COVID could prematurely end her campaign.

Frenchman Ugo Humbert and Belgian Alison Uytvanck both tested positive during the tournament and, in reality, the prospect of getting infected was more of a threat to Barty than any of her on-court rivals.    

“We were pretty careful. I was staying with Gary and my mum and we were pretty much in lockdown,” Barty said as she wound down with a celebratory beer on Saturday night.

“We didn’t leave. We would just go in the morning and get a takeaway coffee. We didn’t go to any restaurants, didn’t go out anywhere.

“So it has been two weeks of hermit life. I don’t have a problem with it. It was a pretty quiet two weeks just to eliminate the risk.”

Asked how conscious she was of COVID-19 potentially cruelling her Open dream, Barty said: “We were just careful, didn’t want to add any risk unnecessarily – it would have made the paper, I reckon (if I got it).

“We were all very mindful from the start, even all of our extended team.

“We just tried to do the right thing like we’d done the last 18 months, two years – just not be silly with it and just not add any extra unnecessary risk for a couple of weeks.

“We can enjoy this and now we can do what we want.”

Barty’s other big concern was ensuring her entire family and support network was at Melbourne Park – and in Rod Laver Arena – for her famous final triumph over American Danielle Collins.

That wasn’t possible when Barty won her first grand slam title at the 2019 French Open or her second last year at Wimbledon.

“I was gutted when mum and dad and some of my team couldn’t be there in Paris and in London,” she said.

“To be able to have almost everyone here was really, really special, and to do it at home and to be able to do it with them, experience it with them, was really special.

“Yeah, mum was always going to be the first one that I gave a hug to.”

Then came her father Rob, who Barty had to plead with to make the trip from Queensland to be courtside for the final.

“After the semi I called my dad and told him he was going to come down – he was a bit umming and ahhhing about it,” Barty said.

“But I said, ‘Nah, you’re going to come down’. It was the same for my sisters as mum was down here the whole time.

“It would have killed me if they weren’t here just because they were so close and I would never have forgiven myself if they weren’t able to share it with us.”