As the Novak Djokovic saga rolls into uncomfortable territory, Ash Barty has emerged as a key figure in saving us from this farce.
Over the past fortnight, more than the attention of the tennis community has been fixed on one of the highest ranked players in the sport. It’s wishful thinking and, let’s face it, naïve thinking, but hopefully in the days to come at least a few pairs of eyes will have reason to move on to another world No.
Novak Djokovic’s vaccination stance, visa mess and ensuing legal challenges have made Covid the hottest topic in town – no mean feat given that the Omicron explosion made RATs part of the everyday vernacular.
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After nearly two years of reading, listening and discussing the virus, Covid fatigue is a very real thing, but it will still be some time before punters lose interest in the Djokovic debacle and the arguments on the merits of expelling the anti-vaxxer from Australia.
Rather than a complete refresh, diehard tennis top fans and those with a keen interest in Melbourne Park events for two weeks each January can hope for at least some sort of distraction. This is where Ash Barty comes in.
With governments and lawyers bickering over the fine print of Djokovic’s situation, there can be no greater contrast to the chaos surrounding the men’s world No.1 than the calm, zen aura surrounding the No. 1 in women’s football.
This time of year, when Nick Kyrgios isn’t telling people’s girlfriends to ‘get out of my box’, the spotlight is on Barty – the darling of Australian sport who generates more goodwill than any of her peers.
The two-time major champion has triumphed on clay at Roland Garros and on grass at Wimbledon but has yet to win her slam on home soil, coming out in quarters, semis and quarters for the past three years. She hopes this month she will become the first Australian woman to win the only Southern Hemisphere Grand Slam since Chris O’Neil in 1978.
Even if she doesn’t, you can bet there won’t be any swearing, racketing — and certainly no lawyering — on the way out.
With his humility, his class and of course his incredible talent, Barty has the chance to make us forget that among the raging legal and political storm, there is also a tennis tournament. Watching her progress deep into the draw – no guarantee even for a world No. 1 after receiving tough matches that could see her face four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka in the fourth round – would be the perfect migraine-inducing cure. hours spent keeping up to date with the latest developments in the Djokovic saga.
Winning the singles and doubles titles at the Adelaide International this month suggests Barty is poised for a tilt to the Australian Open crown that would be just as special as her eye-catching Wimbledon victory the last year. Let’s just hope the Djokovic drama has died down enough for us to appreciate it, should such a feat ever occur.
As News Corp tennis reporter Marc McGowan tweeted during the week: “As someone who loves the sport more than most, it’s heartbreaking to see tennis’ one-month window for major attention in Australia wasted on this.
“We have the best female player in the world, Ash Barty, who has won a first title and is trying to end a 44-year #AusOpen drought. Yet every column inch in the papers and almost every major slot ( and those below) are filled with every fact, gossip and rumor about Djokovic.
While Djokovic refuses to be vaccinated, went to an interview and a photo session knowing he was Covid positive, admitted to having filled out his entry form at the border incorrectly and caused the anguish from other players, Barty – as usual – goes about his business in a straightforward manner that reflects his Queensland roots.
Can you imagine Barty causing even part of the Djokovic drama? She’s a polar and refreshing opposite to the stereotypical millionaire sports star and has spoken more meaningfully about Covid and vaccination than Djokovic – a man who claims people can change the chemistry of water with their emotions – does. will ever do.
“I had my vaccine in April. I was fit and healthy and I was doing it for the people around me to make sure we were safe,” Barty told the Mail-Mail Last year.
As if we needed any more assurances as to why Barty will become one of Australia’s most beloved athletes, regardless of his level of success in the future, his typically down-to-earth approach has was on display as she rode to two trophies in Adelaide.
“I have goals and I have my dreams that I pursue but I want to be a good person. I want to keep growing and learning something new every day,” she said in an interview after -match.
“I feel like on the tennis court I’m continually challenged which is a good thing, and personally I like trying to develop myself every day and be the best version of myself I can be. .
“I want to be Ash, I want to be me – that’s all I can do.”
When the Australian Open kicks off on Monday, a pinch of ash would be like the fizz of Berocca dropping into a glass of water in hopes of easing the pain of a Djokovic-sized hangover.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of players to look up to on both sides of the draw from Australia and overseas who deserve the spotlight in their own right once (if) it passes from Djokovic, but none of them won’t have the same calming effect on the soul as Ash.
The first Grand Slam of the year has been marred and may not fully recover by the end of the month. But with Barty’s help, the tournament can still regain some of its lost luster.
Originally published as Only Ash Barty can save Australia from Novak Djokovic disaster