Ash Barty has bluntly rejected criticism of her long-held world No.1 ranking, armed with a fresh title from the Miami Open.
Barty defended her Miami title from 2019 by beating Bianca Andreescu in the final and with it, maintained the 1000 ranking points that come with winning a WTA premier mandatory event.
No.2 Naomi Osaka could have taken top spot by winning Miami but instead crashed out in the semi-finals. Barty is about to enter her 70th week as No.1, with the ranking frozen during a 2020 season in which she barely played due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ranking freeze was somewhat controversial; Barty is now in the top-10 for total weeks as No.1, after an unassailable year at the top. But the unassuming Australian is adamant that under the unprecedented circumstances presented by coronavirus, she deserved to hold the No.1 spot.
“Some of the chatter about No.1, I’ve seen seen a little bit of it and I can’t change people’s opinions,” Barty said, in an exclusive interview with Nine Radio’s Craig Gabriel after her Miami triumph.
“Everyone has their own right to their opinion and I can’t control what anyone else says but I feel like all the work I’ve done with ‘Tyzz’ (coach Craig Tyzzer) and my team, we deserve to be at the top of the rankings.
“Yes, I didn’t play a lot in 2020 but my ranking also didn’t improve, none of my points improved in 2020. There was opportunities for girls to try and catch that but we were able to collect a lot of points in 2019 through a great season, so I feel like we deserve to be at the top of the rankings and I’m just trying to do the best that I can every tournament.
“That chatter doesn’t bother me, I can’t control what anyone else says or what they report. For us, it’s water off a duck’s back, it doesn’t bother us in the slightest.”
Barty used her 2019 Miami Open title as a springboard into winning her maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open, the claiming the No.1 ranking ahead of Wimbledon.
She intends to take similar momentum from Miami this year. She will play clay court events in Charleston, Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome before heading to Roland Garros, where she opted against defending her title last year.
Barty said that she had enjoyed the challenge of being world No.1; the added emphasis that it provided on seeking excellence in her game.
“I feel like I enjoy the challenge that comes with … not the responsibility, in a way, but I just enjoy the challenge,” she said.
“The challenge to continue to improve. Regardless of what your ranking is, it’s important to try and grow every single day.
“That’s both a personal goal and a professional goal, to continue to grow as a person and as an athlete every single day. In doing that, I’d love to try and inspire the next generation coming through and put a smile on boys’ and girls’ faces all over the world, particularly around Australia.”
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