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Veteran sports broadcaster Jim Wilson has blasted those criticising Ash Barty for bringing her niece into a post-match press conference at the Australian Open.
The world No.1 brought her 12-week old niece into a press conference after her heartbreaking loss to Sofia Kenin in the semi-finals on Thursday.
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Barty conducted the entire presser with the baby on her lap - in a move that many saw as Barty’s way of ‘deflecting’ tough questions about the loss.
But according to Wilson, the criticism is a “load of cr*p”.
“I just feel like the whole hoo-hah with Ash, post-match after that semi-final, bringing her niece, the baby in, and some people are saying that it was like a smokescreen or trying to deflect the blame for her loss,” Wilson said on Weekend Sunrise on Sunday.
“What a load of c**p. This woman is a great role model and she wasn’t deflecting the responsibility. She said she was beaten fair and square.
“She rarely sees her family, so they’re in Melbourne for the two weeks. I thought it was a beautiful touch with her niece.
“Why are we trying to pick something out of someone who is such a great role model, carries herself so well and is someone we should celebrate?
“She is the real deal and she deserves much more respect than some of the critics (have shown) — as far as bringing her family in and having her family involved in what I thought was a pretty special moment.”
Barty called out over ‘inappropriate’ stunt
A number of tennis commentators described the baby as a “human shield”.
BBC commentator David Law felt that bringing her niece into the press conference helped Barty avoid tricky questions.
“I think it is a place of work. It’s an office space. We are there to ask questions and, as lovely a sight as it was on one hand, it’s not really what’s supposed to go on,” Law said on The Tennis Podcast.
Fellow analysts Catherine Whitaker and Matt Roberts agreed.
“She just thinks, ‘This is a distraction for me’ — but the thing is, it’s also a distraction for everybody else and not very helpful,” Whitaker said.
“It’s not appropriate in the workplace. I don’t think that makes her a terrible person for doing it — somebody should have stopped her doing it, probably.
“I don’t know what the circumstances are but it was really weird.”
Separately, Aussie doubles legend Mark Woodforde also questioned Barty’s actions.
“She’s a lovely young lady, we talk about how all Australians are embracing Ash because she’s so humble and down to earth, but yes, I felt like maybe it was a way of deflecting some of the tough questions,” he told Fox Sports News.
As for Barty, she was just happy to get some time with her niece and reflect on a successful summer.
"This is what life's all about,” Barty told reporters as she cradled her niece. “This is amazing.”
“It’s been a hell of a summer. I mean, if you would have told me three weeks ago that we would have won a tournament in Adelaide, made the semi-finals of the Australian Open, I’d take that absolutely every single day of the week.
“I’ve learnt from all of the experiences that I’ve kind of been thrown into. I’ve loved every minute.”