Ashleigh Barty has credited the “unconditional love” from her parents for her Hollywood-style rise to world No.1 tennis player.
The humble superstar paid a heartfelt tribute to her mother Josie, father Robert and first coach Jim Joyce after winning the Newcombe Medal for the third straight year as Australia’s most outstanding performer of 2019.
Never in doubt, Barty formally received her award at tennis’ night of nights at Melbourne’s Crown Palladium on Monday.
Typically, though, rather than bask in her own glory, Barty said success of Australian tennis was not about individuals like her.
“It takes a village. We’re a tennis family and I’m very humbled to be here tonight again,” said the French Open and world No.1.
“I’m extremely fortunate to have such an amazing network around me. It’s very special to have mum, dad and my very first coach – Jim – here.
“They gave me the unconditional love and support time and time again in all bad times.
“In good times, they’re always there and there a few words they said to me: ‘I love to watch you play’.
“When your mum and dad says that to you, when your coach says that to you, that makes the heart race a little bit – like it’s racing right now.
“Honestly, it’s been incredible and I’m very grateful they’re here tonight to share it with me as well.”
During an unforgettable season, Barty became Australia’s first French Open champion since Margaret Court in 1973 and the country’s first women’s world No.1 since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1976.
She was also the first-ever Australian woman to secure the year-end top ranking – and first Aussie since Lleyton Hewitt to do so in 2002.
Barty crowned her spectacular season in ultimate fashion by beating four top-eight rivals in eight days to win the prestigious WTA Finals in Shenzhen and, with it, $6.4 million – the biggest cheque in tennis history.
But the 23-year-old said she would never have achieved all this without her tight-knit group and singled out her mental coach Ben Crowe and trusted mentor Craig Tyzzer for special praise.
“Crowey, you have changed my life immensely. I can’t thank you enough for helping me become the woman I am today, for helping me realise the person I want to be off the court,” Barty said.
“You changed not only my life – my mum and dad, my sisters Ali and Sarah – you’ve been a massive influence for us and I’m very lucky to have found you and to have stumbled across you.
“You’re a genuine friend and I cannot thank you enough for what you have done.”
Tyzzer was also recognised at the awards as elite coach of the year.
“Tyzz’, you’re the captain of our ship. You make sure that we tick along every single day and there wouldn’t be another person that I want to spend this journey with,” Barty said.
“You’re an incredible person, an amazing friend, and even though sometimes on the court I’m venting and giving you a little bit of a spray, we have an incredible relationship. We have great banter.”
But is the first player to claim three straight “Newks’ since fellow grand slam champion Samantha Stosur from 2010-2012.
Fittingly, Stosur was also honoured on Monday night with the Spirit of Tennis Award for her “leadership, professionalism and the positive impact she’s had on the sport” while finishing 15 consecutive years in the world’s top 100.