Tennis Channel Live: Ash Barty is a different breed of player

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Whenever an Australian wins a tennis tournament, the world tends to become more a smidge more delightful, twinkling with sparks of grace.

To start, witness world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty’s awards-ceremony remarks to 76th-ranked Jil Teichmann. shortly after beating her, 6-3, 6-1, in the Western & Southern Open final: “This is where you belong, this is your level.”

Next, witness Barty’s appreciation for those who’ve come before her, and their shared presence in the tennis tapestry. On Sunday, Barty became the first Australian woman to win Cincinnati since her idol, Evonne Goolagong, won its title back in 1973.

Confessing to not having been previously aware of this, Barty took delight in the connection.

“It's obviously very special that we are becoming more and more connected throughout tennis history, and not just our heritage,” the Aussie said. “But it's really cool to be able to almost bring our stories together a little bit.”

Most of all, witness the dazzling combination of Barty’s subdued demeanor and expressive playing style. Similar to silky-smooth champions such as Roger Federer, Justine Henin and her compatriots, Goolagong and Ken Rosewall, Barty sees the court and builds points differently than most players.

A business consultant once said, “If your only tool is a hammer, then you see the solution to every problem as a nail.” Stylists like Barty do more than grab a hammer and pound nails. To see Barty in the groove these days is to savor the full blossom of a garden planted many years ago, in the formative stages of her tennis life. Barty’s appetite for breadth is clear, be it a powerful forehand, comfort at the net, ease with the serve, versatility with the backhand.

Ash Barty's game is capable of a championship on all surfaces, the hard courts at Flushing Meadows included.

Ash Barty's game is capable of a championship on all surfaces, the hard courts at Flushing Meadows included.

Each of those tools helped Barty win this WTA 1000 tournaments without the loss of a set, including victories over 2020 US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka, 2021 Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova, and recent Wimbledon semifinalist Angelique Kerber. Today, versus Teichmann, Barty snapped open the match, winning eight straight games from 3-all in the first set.

“Today against Jil, I feel like I was able to really trust myself and play with confidence,” said Barty, “get after the ball, be aggressive and get a bit of a run on, which was going to be important in a big final.”

Though Teichmann hung in plausibly for the first six games, she hardly asked Barty troubling questions. As Teichmann discovered first-hand, Barty’s movement is a flow, her point construction eclectic, her touch apparent, her power deceptive. Against that array, it’s not easy to get a word in edgewise. All told, Barty hit 28 winners, compared to 12 for Teichmann.

“She made me move a lot like inside the court,” said Teichmann, “outside the court with different kind of spins and slices, everything.”

Teichmann only got into Cincinnati as a wild card, but her southpaw game caught fire as it never has. She beat Australian Open and US Open champion Naomi Osaka, newly minted Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic, and 2021 Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova.

“I have been feeling very good all week,” she said. “I think I can be happy with a little bit everything. I have been serving very good, I have been returning good with good servers especially. I have been coming in when I needed to. I have been defending when I needed to. I think in general I'm really happy with my level.”

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“This is where you belong, this is your level,” champion Barty told the 76th-ranked wild card after her deep run in Cincy.

“This is where you belong, this is your level,” champion Barty told the 76th-ranked wild card after her deep run in Cincy.

Teichmann will now crack the Top 50, and certainly be a tricky early-round threat at the US Open.

Barty, meanwhile, will occupy the vastly different position of No. 1 seed—and at last hope to make a major impression in New York. Eschewing any local celebration, Barty planned to head to New York this evening.

“I love playing in New York,” she said. “I love the vibe that's there. I love the city itself. I can't wait to get there.

“It's been a couple of years since we have been back in New York City. I'm excited to get there and do some of my favorite things outside of the tennis court. Certainly nice to get a few matches under my belt this week to feel like I'm ready to play in New York.”

Twelve months ago, Barty skipped the US Open, waiting out the pandemic in Australia. In her previous appearance, seeded second in 2019, she was upset in the fourth round by Qiang Wang. Barty called the loss “a tough day at the office,” frustrated by her inability to cash in numerous break-point opportunities. Intermittent bouts of passivity surfaced, as if she were watching tennis rather than playing it.

But as Barty’s sharp summer title runs at Wimbledon and Cincinnati have demonstrated, she very much knows what it takes to evade the witness chair and conduct herself as one nimble prosecutor.

As Teichmann said, “Ash is a really, really complete player. She serves good, very big forehand, her slice, makes you change the rhythm. She's just really complete. She's an exceptional No. 1. I really have to say that.”