Former Australian Open winner Kim Clijsters has jumped on the Ashleigh Barty bandwagon, hailing the sporting super talent as a potential champion with “every shot in the book”.
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova also emerged as a big Barty fan on Monday, lauding the 22-year-old’s as a grand slam champion in the making.
But it was Clijsters who was gushing in praise of Barty on the eve of the home hope’s quarter-final on Tuesday night against dual Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.
Clijsters believes Barty’s decision to take an 18-month hiatus after the 2014 US Open, when the teenager was struggling to cope with the huge expectations that came with being a junior prodigy, has been the making of her.
“I remember when she was working with Jason Stoltenberg and I loved watching her practise and just seeing how she has every shot in the book,” the Belgian said.
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“She can be very tricky with her shots with a lot of variety. At the same time, she can step in with her shots and be very aggressive. I’ve enjoyed watching her play.
“I think it was a very, very smart choice for her to get away from it and realise how much she loves the sport, and that’s what you see the result of now.”
Clijsters doesn’t believe it’s too soon for Barty to break through and land her first grand slam singles crown in Melbourne.
“She has the tennis that can do it but, unfortunately, it’s not just the tennis that is important to win a grand slam,” said the former world No.1.
“It’s everything – physically, mentally, emotionally. Everything has to fall into place and you have to play your best tennis when it’s needed.
“To some players, they need a little bit longer to get into that situation. They need more moments of getting to the quarters, semis of a grand slam to get used to that extra little pressure. And some go fine with it.”
Navratilova is tipping Serena Williams to prevail this week and match Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 singles slams.
But she wouldn’t be surprised to see Barty win the Open either, or one of the other majors in 2019.
“She could do it here,” Navratilova said.
“She could do it sometime this year, she could do it in the next five years. She’s got 10 great years ahead of her if she stays healthy. Yes, she’s got it in her.
“She’s a student of the game, she’s improving all the time and, most of all, she’s enjoying herself.”