Though "counting down the days" to grass, Barty upbeat on clay return

Though "counting down the days" to grass, Barty upbeat on clay return

Ashleigh Barty, the 2019 Roland Garros champion, is planning a full clay-court schedule that begins with Charleston and also includes Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome ahead of the Paris major.

Ashleigh Barty might have won Roland Garros in her last trip to Paris, but the 2019 French Open winner says she's still looking forward to the grass season more.

The 24-year-old Australian, who just won the Miami Open, is planning a full clay schedule as she gets set to make another run in the French capital.

"I'm excited to get on the green clay in Charleston," Barty told press from Miami. "We'll look forward to Europe and get on some red clay in Stuttgart, Madrid, Rome. That's the plan for us.

"Stuttgart is a new tournament for me. Madrid, I love playing there, and obviously Rome is a beautiful city before we go into Paris."

Barty did not play most of the 2020 season, citing safety and travel concerns during the coronavirus pandemic. She does not plan to return home in between events for most of this season due to the two-week quarantine required for entering Australia.

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The biggest priority is "all the cities can stay safe and we can play environments where we are safe," added Barty.

Clay is still not Barty's preferred surface. She likes to mix up her play and get to net, and her 2019 Grand Slam breakthrough was a surprise, having followed a quarterfinal appearance at Rome and third round at Madrid. But she will look to use the experience she gained to become a more consistent performer—even on the clay courts.

"Yeah, don't get me wrong, I'm still counting down the days to the grass season," said Barty. "It's going to be an interesting time of year. I think probably in 2019, each week that I played, I felt like I got better and better on the clay and obviously grew in confidence and grew in experience. 

"I think the lessons that I learnt will definitely hold me in good stead going into this year. Yeah, I think our attitude doesn't really change much."

Barty will also keep her No. 1 ranking following her successful Miami title defense. Naomi Osaka, winner of the last two hard-court majors, remains right behind her at No. 2.