When Ashleigh Barty lost at Wimbledon to Alison Riske, a lot of people came out of the woodwork to doubt the Australian who had become World No. 1.
I won’t use this article to refute or silence those people, because the questions surrounding Ash Barty are reasonable, if sometimes exaggerated or unfair, or both.
It is true that Ash Barty did not have an overwhelmingly strong summer. It is true that while she put together a very solid Asian swing to close the 2019 WTA Tour season, she lost to Naomi Osaka in Beijing.
It is true that at the 2019 WTA Finals in Shenzhen, players dropped like flies on a court with a terrible surface which almost seemed designed to get players hurt.
Osaka withdrew from the tournament. Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the tournament. Belinda Bencic retired from her semifinal match. Kiki Bertens, an alternate who replaced Osaka, had to retire from her second round-robin match in Shenzhen. Simona Halep needed a medical timeout in her first match of the week and never looked especially strong.
This was a week marked by depleted bodies and depleted tennis. If you were to say that this week proved very little about the true balance of power on the WTA Tour, I would agree with you.
None of this is Ashleigh Barty’s fault. None of this was — or is, or ever could be — within her control or influence.
To that extent, questions will inevitably remain about her staying power on tour, into the 2020 season. To that extent, her skeptics haven’t yet been permanently refuted. I will give them that much.
It also has to be said that anyone who doubted Barty’s ability to remain on top of the WTA Tour after her Roland Garros championship has to give her SOME credit.
Yes, this was an injury-ravaged field in Shenzhen… but would you have preferred if Barty LOST to this injury-depleted field?
She took a set of favorable circumstances and did the only thing she could: She won.
She won the whole gosh-darn tournament.
Barty didn’t back-door into year-end World No. 1. She claimed it and crowned it with a WTA Finals title.
You can question Ash Barty… and you can also give her credit.
What else was she supposed to do this week?
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