Ash has thrived on magical mystery tour

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For Ash Barty, it began with tears of sadness when she bade farewell to her loved ones in Australia.

Yet a bewildering, beautiful journey could now all culminate in tears of joy nearly four months later on Wimbledon's Centre Court.

It was late in March that the world's No.1 tennis player packed her bags for a global tour that she knew was going to thrust her into the unknown after a year when the world had been plunged into chaos and she'd chosen to stay at home.

"It was all new to me, new to try and wrap my head around and comprehend where we're going to be away for such an extended period," reflected Barty, who didn't know - and still doesn't know - exactly when she'd be back to see the family she's so close to.

"Of course, there were tears in the days leading up. And when I did finally leave."

And since.

Like when she feared her grand slam dreams were falling apart with the "heartbreaking" hip injury she suffered while trying to regain her French Open title in Paris with Wimbledon around the corner.

She also reckons it's sometimes been so painful to have been away, only able to see them on long-distance video calls.

Yet though she knew it was going be a mystery tour for her, for the large part, it's been a magical one.

There have been triumphs on the hard courts of Miami to the clay courts of Stuttgart, with the sweetest tale now perhaps to be written on London grass on Saturday when she faces Karolina Pliskova in the Wimbledon final.

"I've had ups and downs, and everything in between, and I wouldn't change one day or one moment, or one route we've taken on my path," she told the Centre Court on Thursday.

"It's been unique, it's been incredible, it's been tough, and I wouldn't change one thing about it."

That's the ultimate triumph of Barty's trip. Alongside the calming presence of her small and trusted entourage led by coach Craig Tyzzer, it's been her willingness to embrace it all, whether good or bad.

"It's about enjoying it along the way and understanding that this is an adventure, that I may never have a year like this again where I'm away from Australia for such an extended period, so I may as well make the most of it," she explained.

There were moments after she'd hit Europe following her Miami Open triumph when Barty almost seemed invulnerable.

Yet the price of winning match after match can be a physical toll - and after Rome, when she suffered the recurrence of an old arm injury, a freak hip problem, incurred when she hit the ground after a serve, forced her out during her second round match in Paris.

That was the most heartbreaking time for her.

"Absolutely. Not every day is flowers and roses. Paris was a really challenging two or three weeks for myself and my team," she recalled.

"This last six to eight weeks we've had ups and downs, we've had different challenges but we've learned from every experience and have been able to enjoy this fortnight at Wimbledon.

"I'm extremely grateful I've been healthy most of the time, that mainly we've been able to do week in week out what we'd planned and what we'd hoped for. It's been an incredible journey."

Next stop - the collection of the Venus Rosewater Dish?

BARTY'S REMARKABLE YEAR...

Yarra Valley Classic (Melbourne, February) - WON

Australian Open (Melbourne, February) - quarter-final

Adelaide International - (Adelaide, February) - last-16

Miami Open (Miami, March/April) - WON

Charleston Open (Charleston, April)- quarter-final

Stuttgart Grand Prix (Stuttgart, April) - WON

Madrid Open (Madrid, May) - Runner-up

Italian Open (Rome, May) - quarter-final

French Open (Paris, June) - second round

Wimbledon (London, June/July) - ?

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