Sports fans should savour Ash Barty’s return to tennis because it could be fleeting.
While Barty hopes Friday night’s [AEDT] comeback match in Adelaide marks the start of a “long season” ahead, the world No.1 is offering no real guarantees beyond the Australian summer.
Barty hasn’t played since last February, deciding not to leave Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 24-year-old sat out the US Open in September and even opted against defending her French Open crown three weeks later in Paris.
With coronavirus still rampant around the world, the Queenslander admits she and coach Craig Tyzzer have yet to commit to a concrete schedule beyond the Australian Open starting on Feb. 8.
“Not a lot’s changed. Obviously it’s still quite a delicate situation and we have a couple of plans,” Barty told AAP ahead of her exhibition match against world No.2 Simona Halep on Friday night.
“We have options A, B, C and D to kind of go through and we have to wing it a little bit, honestly, because we can’t know quite what to expect.
“But what ‘Tyzz’ and I have spoken about is that our kind of stance remains the same – the priority for us is the health and wellbeing of not only us two on the road, but also our families back home.
“So, for us, that’s a really important thing, regardless of what tournaments may be on.
“Our decisions will always be prioritised by our health and by the bigger picture for us of more than just hitting tennis balls.”
And with that approach, Barty plans on enjoying the summer – and her second Australian Open bid as top seed – rather than fretting about trying to break the country’s infamous 43-year singles title drought in Melbourne.
“It’s been a trying time for everyone down here in Victoria, in particular. So we have to be extremely grateful and understand just how lucky we are that we have an opportunity to play,” she said.
“So I’ll go out there to try and do the best that I can to enjoy it but also go out there and try and do everyone proud knowing that we’ve got the tennis back and hopefully it’s going to be a really good month.”