SYDNEY (Reuters) – While millions of their compatriots will stay up late into the night to watch Ash Barty try and win the French Open on Saturday, her parents will be stranded just a couple of hundred miles away from Roland Garros.
Australian media reported on Saturday that Rob and Josie Barty were already in the air on their way to England when their 23-year-old daughter sealed her epic semi-final victory over teenager Amanda Anisimova in Paris.
Flights from Queensland to London take a good 24 hours, however, so the proud parents will not have enough time to touch down and then make the dash across the English Channel in time to watch Saturday’s final against Marketa Vondrousova.
That will not, of course, diminish their pride at Barty’s astonishing run to the final, where she will be aiming to bring Australia its first French Open women’s singles title in 46 years.
“Over the last three years, Ash has worked hard to get to this position and deserves every success that comes her way,” father Rob told the Herald Sun.
That her parents had planned their trip to support Barty during the grasscourt season is an indication of just how surprising her run on the red clay of the Roland Garros courts has been.
There were, though, a few signs that something special was brewing this year for the 23-year-old, who famously quit the sport in her teens and took up professional cricket.
Since swapping bat for racket again in 2016, Barty has risen from 325th to eighth in the world going into the French Open, a ranking that will improve to second if she beats Czech Vondrousova.
Barty reached the final of her first tournament of the year in Sydney and her first Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open two weeks later.
Two singles victories over American opponents helped Australia into the final of the Fed Cup and the wins kept coming on the WTA tour with her fourth career title secured in March at the Miami Open.
She has had some help along the way over the last two weeks in Paris, with potential opponents Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep all removed from her path to a first Grand Slam final by upsets.
Barty has impressed many with her cool demeanour in a sport where mental fragility is commonplace, though, and she needed every bit of that composure in her rollercoaster ride of a semi-final against Anisimova, which she won 6-7 (4) 6-3 6-3.
“I’m just proud of myself the way I was able to fight and scrap and hang in there and find a way,” she told reporters in Paris.
Australians like nothing better than a battler and, win or lose, Barty’s surprise bid for the Coupe Suzanne-Lenglen is sure to knock even their beloved cricketers, currently defending their World Cup title in England, off the back pages.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Greg Stutchbury)