Tuesday 15 October 2019

Back-on-track Barty derails the local Dart

Ashleigh Barty. Photo: PA
Ashleigh Barty. Photo: PA

Kate Rowan

With the baying Centre Court crowd, the deities of the sporting world in the Royal Box and the reverberations caused by a Red Arrows flyover, there was a sense that No 1 seed Ashleigh Barty and Harriet Dart were entering the Colosseum.

There was no doubt that the Australian was cast as the lion, while Britain's Dart, ranked 181 in the world and who had fought her way through the first two rounds, was coming in as the brave but bloodied Gladiator. It was not quite a slaughter, as the setting of the All England club is far too genteel for that, but Barty's ruthless dispatching of the 22-year-old north Londoner was in keeping with the positions of the players in the global pecking order.

Winning just two games in a straight-sets defeat may usually cause blushes but this was seen as "a big stepping stone" by Dart as this was not just the furthest she had got in a grand slam, it also came off the back of her first two grand slam wins.

There is also the consolation of £111,000 of prize money, a huge amount relative to the £290,000 Dart had earned before The Championships. Considering she had been dispatched 6-0, 6-0 by Maria Sharapova in the first round of the Australian Open in January, Dart holding on to snatch games in each set was progress, particularly as she has had some issues with her relatively weak serve all tournament.

"I think today I handled my emotions a lot better," Dart said. "The courts are different. Different surface, different type of crowd, different amount of people. In Australia, on Rod Laver, it was a lot bigger stadium than here on Centre Court. I think today it was really nice to have the British fans out there, which I think helped me a lot.

"But Ashleigh played great today. I think she didn't allow me to get into the match really at all."

Appropriately, perhaps, the great and good of English cricket, including Test and one-day captains Joe Root and Eoin Morgan, were among the spectators.

Barty had quit tennis due to suffering from stress having broken through on tour as a 15-year-old and spent a season playing cricket for Brisbane Heat in the Women's Big Bash League before returning in 2016. This, she believes, gave her much-needed perspective that has allowed her to go from outside the world top 300 to No 1 in three years.

"Cricket has given me a really nice perspective about how other athletes go about their business, how they train, prepare," she said. "Now I've come back to tennis, in my sport. I feel like I've got my balance right, I've got my mix right."


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