NEW world number one Ashleigh Barty has admitted that nothing will change for her, after winning the Nature Valley Classic at Edgbaston Priory Club to become the highest-ranked WTA player in the world.
The 23-year old Australian claimed a 6-3, 7-5 victory over German Julia Görges to leapfrog Naomi Osaka into number one for the first time in her career, becoming the first female Australian tennis player since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1976 to reach the top ranking.
Barty beat Donna Vekic, Jennifer Brady, Venus Williams and Barbora Strycova en route to the final, and in claiming a straight sets win over Görges in the final, ensured that she claimed the title without dropping a single set – the first time the feat has been achieved since Ana Ivanovic in 2014.
The Australian, who quit the sport for a period to play cricket for the Brisbane Heat and Queensland Fire, returned to tennis in May 2016, and says that her transformation since that point has been unthinkable.
“It’s just been the most amazing journey for myself and my team,” said Barty.
“We’ve got to this point by doing all of the small things right and I think we’ll certainly continue to try to do that – it’s been the most amazing month of tennis for us and an amazing three years.
“It’s a testament to all of my team who have invested so much time, passion and energy into my career and trying to make me the best that I can be.
“It’s hard to be able to put into words what we’ve been able to achieve the last few years and to be where we are now is just incredible.”
Speaking on what her newfound world number one status changes for her, Barty said: “Nothing – for all of us it’s an amazing place to be in, but nothing changes.”
The Australian had to have her wits about her as the first set began, saving break points to hold serve in the opening game of the final, whilst having to contend with the powerful serve of Görges.
After the two players held serve for the opening five games, Barty forced the first break of the match to lead 4-2 after the German threw away several game points.
With no further breaks of serve in the set, Barty claimed the opening set, but fell 0-3 behind in the second after two holds of serve and a break from Görges.
The second-set lead was made even more impressive considering that the 30-year old German had made two double faults and was 30-40 down on her opening service game.
But Barty was not willing to let the set slip away from her, and won the subsequent three games to draw level, although a crucial loss of accuracy from Görges – when missing a lob from close to the net at 30-15 up – proved a turning point in the sixth game.
Both held their serve for the following four games, but when it really mattered, Barty made the difference.
She broke Görges just as the pair seemed destined for a second set tie-break, with Barty also winning an unbelievably close challenge to deny the German a crucial point, to lead 6-5.
All that stood between the Queensland native and the world number one ranking was a hold of serve, Barty doing just that with a love service game, to claim a straight sets victory and the Nature Valley Classic title.
It continues a remarkable few months for Barty, who lifts the title in Birmingham just two weeks after lifting her maiden Grand Slam at the French Open.
She now hopes to repeat her success on grass when Wimbledon comes calling in a few days time – where she will vie to dethrone reigning champion Angelique Kerber; whilst Görges attempts to go one better than her semi-final appearance in SW19 last year.