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Barty's Wimbledon dream could become reality, says Dokic

  • Matt Trollope

During an interview in August 2020, Ash Barty, having already won a Grand Slam singles title and reached world No.1, was asked what she now dreamed of achieving in her tennis career.

“My dream is winning Wimbledon. Without a doubt,” she answered, with a glint in her eye.

“I think it took a long time for me to have the courage to say that out loud. But that’s what I want. That’s what I want to work towards.

“I think being able to win junior Wimbledon was really special, but it just gave me a taste of what it’s really like.

“For me, that’s the goal.”

Should she realise this dream at Wimbledon 2021, it would be the finest achievement yet in the Australian’s flourishing career. For although she enters next week’s Championships as the top seed, she does so under a physical cloud and without any competitive grass-court match play in two years. 

RELATED: Injured Barty out in second round of Roland Garros

Barty was forced to retire from her second-round match at Roland Garros with an acute hip injury, and has not played any grass-court tournaments leading up to Wimbledon.

She has, however, been training on the practice-court lawns at the All England Club.

Grass-court gun

Perhaps fans of the world No.1 should not be worried about her prospects, given her lawn tennis prowess.

Her career win-loss record on grass at all levels of the professional game stands at 47-15, a success rate of almost 76 per cent.

The attributes that have made her such a threat on the surface – a powerful, versatile serve, effective slice backhand, some of the best net skills in the world and varied shot selection – have convinced Jelena Dokic that Barty remains a premier contender at the tournament, despite coming in cold. 

"She's got the type of game where she is aggressive, but she does not play extra risky tennis. She has a lot more shape and safety, she has Plan B, C, D and E, I would even say,” said Dokic, a former world No.4 who reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2000.

“If it doesn't work from the back, she can come in. She can mix it up. Also upset the rhythm of her opponents. Worst case scenario, she will still serve pretty well.

"What those top players have is that ability to adjust very quickly; even when they're still a little bit rusty, and not playing their best, their level is still so high.

"If Ash is 100 per cent (physically) going into Wimbledon, which we don't know, but if she is, I still give her a great chance of getting far into the tournament.”

Barty has demonstrated this grass-court prowess ever since vaulting to prominence as the 15-year-old prodigy who won junior Wimbledon a decade ago.

Ash Barty celebrates her victory in the Wimbledon girls' singles event in 2011. (Getty Images)

The first professional singles title she won outside of Australia came on the surface, when she captured the Nottingham 50K ITF title in 2012 at age 16.

After a near two-year hiatus from the game, she returned to singles action on grass in Great Britain in 2016 and was instantly successful, winning nine of her first 11 matches. 

As her comeback gathered momentum, she reached the WTA Birmingham final in 2017, won the WTA Nottingham title in 2018 and returned to the Birmingham final in 2019, where she beat Julia Goerges to become world No.1.

Wimbledon return

To this point, she is yet to enjoy similarly sparkling grass-court results at Wimbledon.

Her best showing was her 2019 run to the fourth round, where she was surprised in three sets by Alison Riske – a loss that snapped Barty’s incredible streak of 21 consecutive sets won.

Barty avenged that defeat by beating Riske at the same stage of the Australian Open six months later, part of a blazing start to 2020 during which she went 11-3 and won the Adelaide International before advancing to the semis at Melbourne Park.

But her momentum was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and then Wimbledon was cancelled.

That loss to Riske at SW19 remains her most recent competitive outing on her favourite surface, almost two years ago.

Dokic believes Barty’s comparative under-performance at Wimbledon – when considering other grass-court events or Grand Slam tournaments – is a misleading statistic.

“I think (missing) one year makes a big difference. Don't forget, the year before, she won the French. You're still kind of absorbing everything, the emotional side of winning a Grand Slam. If they had a bit more time (between Roland Garros and Wimbledon) I think it would be different,” Dokic said.

"Since she's really been at the top of the game, she's only played Wimbledon. She's still very young. 

"I think it's just a matter of time before she goes really deep at Wimbledon, and I actually wouldn't be surprised if it happens this year, even with her injury and the uncertainty of it.

“I think her game is so well suited to grass. And not just her game, but her head and her mindset, because she's such a smart player.”

Next week, Barty will begin her quest for that Wimbledon dream.

And throughout the fortnight that follows, it will be compelling to see where it takes her.