Sporting legend guiding Barty to greatness
Ash Barty is using the example of surfing champion Stephanie Gilmore to embrace the weight of expectation from the Australian public this summer.
After stunning world No.1 Simona Halep in Sydney on Wednesday to move into the quarter-finals, 22-year-old Barty will enter next week's Australian Open with enormous hopes on her shoulders, and revealed her little-know friendship with Gilmore is a key to her handling the pressure.
"She's very relaxed with it, and she embraces it, that's exactly what I'm trying to do," Barty told The Daily Telegraph.
"I want to enjoy it.
"Steph is an Australian sporting legend, and what she achieved last year was beyond amazing.
"She is the most amazing chick. What she has done for Australian surfing, not just the female side, has been amazing and to see her win her seventh world title last year [equalling Layne Beachley] was incredible."
Gilmore said her talks with Barty had been beneficial for both sports stars.
"Competing on a global stage comes with pressure that only a person in a similar position can comprehend," Gilmore said.
"Ash and I face similar challenges competing in individual sports and we've had some nice conversations about what that feels like and how to overcome even the smallest of things.
"It's comforting to hear this from a friend and someone I respect as much Ash. I believe Australian women's sport is in an incredibly strong position at the moment and it's because of women like Ash.
"I know she can win a Grand Slam, it's an epic journey and I want to follow and get behind her every step of the way.
"We also have the Tokyo 2020 Olympics coming up. It will be a first for both of us and I'm excited by the prospect of representing Australia together."
Barty recorded her first win over a world No.1 after four previous failures - two to Halep - as she prevailed 6-4 6-4 at Ken Rosewall Arena.
The victory ensures No.15 Barty, already Australia's highest-ranked player male or female, will have unprecedented hype for the opening Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne.
"There is no extra pressure from the Australian public in my eyes, the only extra pressure is that I put on myself," Barty said.
"The women's game is so open but also so strong, anyone in the top 40 can win in any given tournament so you have to be able to put yourself in the right position.
"Certainly whoever I play I respect, but I don't play their reputation.
"That's one of the biggest things that I've been able to do over the past 18 months.
"It's the first win against a world No.1, I'd gone 0-4, and 0-2 against Simona in particular, it's just exciting.
"We've done the work, I feel like I'm ready, I've played the matches and now it's about going out there and play with freedom, play my brand of tennis."