Ash Barty has made the stunning admission that her immediate future beyond the Australian Open is very much up in their air.
The Australian star will make her return to tennis on Friday at an exhibition event in Adelaide and says she hopes it will mark a “long season” ahead.
‘WON’T HELP’: Australian Open star whacks whinging rivals
However the World No.1 dropped somewhat of a bombshell when she admitted she can’t offer any real guarantees beyond the Australian summer.
Barty hasn’t played professionally since last February, opting not to travel outside of Australia during the coronavirus pandemic.
She opted to skip the US Open and even decided not to defend her French Open crown in 2020, staying home and watching her beloved Richmond win another AFL flag.
And 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 February 8.
“Not a lot has 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.”
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,” she said.
“So we have to be extremely grateful and understand just how lucky we are that we have an opportunity to play.
“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.”
Barty has game face on for Australian Open tilt
Barty’s clash with Halep is the last of six matches at the so-called Day at the Drive and coach Tyzzer says it will be serious business.
“She'll get a good hit-out there as well and we'll try and treat it bit like a proper match,” Tyzzer said.
“There will be at least two full sets for the girls which will be great. And both Simona and Ash are really looking forward to that.”
Barty was the first Australian woman since Wendy Turnbull in 1984 to reach the Open semi-finals last year.
But her last-four loss to eventual champion Sofia Kenin, having served for both sets in the 7-6 (8-6) 7-5 defeat, still stings and is proving a motivator in 2021.
“And it's good that it hurts because it means it means something to Ash,” Tyzzer said.
“She didn't play anywhere hear her best match and that's what we've tried to deal with, to overcome those situations when things aren't going well.
“But she still put herself in a position to win both sets and didn't finish them off.
“So that sort of hurts as well, that she didn't play her best but she still should have got through that match because the next match could have been the best tennis she's played. You just don't know.”
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.