Esteemed coach David Taylor has urged Australian tennis fans and officials from burdening teenage sensation Ashleigh Barty with unfair expectations.
Taylor on Friday hailed the 15-year-old junior Wimbledon champion as not only the hottest talent in world tennis, but also potentially even better than the great Martina Hingis.
“She’s the real deal. She is amazing,” Taylor told AAP.
The legendary Evonne Goolagong Cawley agreed, lauding Barty’s “fantastic” all-round game, but Taylor said it was critical the youngster was allowed to develop before being over-hyped.
“We have to be careful with her,” he said.
“People are excited because she is such an outstanding talent and we haven’t had one like that for so long. But she’s still got a long way to go and so many things can wrong before she becomes a top-20 player. She’s not even close to that. The distance she has to travel to get there is way off so let’s just be excited about her potential for now, eh.”
Barty this month won the Australian Open wildcard playoff and is sure to attract plenty of attention when she makes her grand slam main-draw debut in Melbourne next month. And not even Taylor’s cautiousness could temper his enthusiasm for a prodigious talent who last year took up a dream invitation to train in Las Vegas with Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi. “She’s a complete tennis player, an updated and better version of Hingis. She already serves better,” said Taylor, who formerly coached the Swiss Miss, as well as fellow ex-world No.1 Ana Ivanovic, retired Australian ace Alicia Molik and who now mentors US Open champion Samantha Stosur.
“I haven’t seen anyone with this much potential before. At 16, I saw Ivanovic lose to Venus Williams 7-6 7-6 in Zurich, but her game - big serve, big forehand - is totally different. “Barty doesn’t have the power of Venus or Serena but she’s got intuition that you can’t really teach. “She changes the pace really well, changes the tempo. She can play on any surface, she handles the pressure well ... there’s not many holes in her game. She’s got everything. She just gets it. That’s why she’s so special.” Taylor’s lavish praise for Barty came after Goolagong Cawley said she couldn’t wait to see the Queensland starlet match it up with the pros at Melbourne Park. “I will be following her every point,” she said.
“I saw her play during the Australian Open (juniors) last year. She has an all-round game. It was nice to see someone who slices the ball, plays drop shots - she has great variety in her shots and she goes for it, she tries them. When they all come off, she’s fantastic. She lost that day, but she put together so many wonderful strokes in one point (that) I thought: ‘she’s got it’. Even though she lost, I saw the potential then. Now she is showing it. She’s very mature on and off the court. She can go far.” Being indigenous has also meant Barty is often compared to Goolagong Cawley.
“I have met her a few times. She is like me - when tennis gets too much, she goes fishing,” said the former world No.1 and seven-times grand slam champion. “She is a woman after my own heart.”