'Joke to the sport': Ash Barty caught in ugly Naomi Osaka controversy

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·5-min read
Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka, pictured here at the Australian Open.
Ash Barty has kept her World No.1 ranking despite Naomi Osaka winning the Australian Open. Image: Getty

Ash Barty is being labelled somewhat of a false World No.1 after the Aussie star kept the top ranking despite Naomi Osaka winning the Australian Open.

Barty's reign as World No.1 will continue despite her loss in the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park and No.2 Osaka's title triumph.

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Barty sat out the majority of the 2020 season while her rivals (including Osaka) toiled away on the court.

Osaka won the US Open in September and the Australian Open on Saturday night, taking her career tally of grand slam titles to four.

Yet the Japanese star is still over 1300 rankings points behind Barty - 7835 to 9186.

The bizarre turn of events comes down to dramatic changes the WTA made to the rankings system midway through 2020.

Rather than the traditional 52-week window that was previously used to calculate rankings points, the WTA brought in a new system that sees a player's best 16 results over a two-year period count towards their points.

The change was brought in at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when players were withdrawing from events or choosing not to travel overseas.

Barty decided to stay in Australia rather than play the US and French Opens in 2020, but didn't take a hit in the rankings.

In the past, players had to better their previous year's result at an event in order to gain rankings points, and would lose them if they didn't.

Naomi Osaka and Jennifer Brady, pictured here after the Australian Open women's final.
Naomi Osaka beat Jennifer Brady in the Australian Open women's final. (Photo by Andy Cheung/Getty Images)

Because Barty made the semi-finals at the Australian Open in 2020 and the quarters in 2021, she would normally lose points.

But not this year.

New York Times tennis reporter Christopher Clarey said the system is "deeply out of sync with reality".

"I understand the reasons & the pandemic-adjusted WTA rankings have worked well enough until now in my view," he tweeted on Sunday.

"But they now seem deeply out of sync with reality with Barty still No.1 by a healthy margin holding no Slam titles (or finals) & playing so little."

And the majority of fans agreed.

There are also those who will tell you that Barty was lucky to get to No.1 in the first place after only having to face one seeded player when she won the French Open title in 2019.

However she did back that up by winning the year-end WTA Finals the same year.

Ash Barty won't chase rankings points in 2021

Barty will play the Adelaide International this week as she attempts to get back on track.

However she admits she's uncertain when her next tournament will be after she attempts to defend her title at Memorial Drive.

The Australian says she won't travelling the world chasing points just to retain her No.1 ranking.

"As for defending points, I think it's a very negative way of looking at it," Barty told reporters on Monday.

"We plan as best that we can but obviously in the current situation nothing is certain, it's difficult.

"We just go with the advice that we have been given, we trust that the situation that we're going into is the right situation, it's safe and all of the right protocols have been put in place.

"So for the time being, we focus on this week ... and we move onto the schedule a little bit later on.

"I would love to be back on tour full time and all those decisions will come as close as we can to the event but ... it's hard for me to comment right now."

Barty accepted a wildcard into the Adelaide International after her shock loss to Czech Karolina Muchova in the quarters at Melbourne Park.

"All the work you do in between (tournaments) week-in, week-out is what I have missed the most," she said.

"Hopefully we get to do that this year and we get to do it soon.

"Kind of start again, which is a massive reason why I wanted to play here in Adelaide this week, to continue that momentum that we have built in the last month here in Australia."

with AAP

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