Ash Barty’s coach has revealed how the World No.1’s extended layoff from the tennis tour in 2020 allowed her to bulk up and improved all areas of her game.
Ahead of her return to the tour at the Australian Open on February 8, long-time mentor Craig Tyzzer has declared a mentally refreshed and physically stronger Barty a genuine chance of winning her home grand slam.
‘KILLS PEOPLE’: Church leader lashes Court's 'bad theology'
‘DOUBLE STANDARDS’: Stranded model's Australian Open fury
Barty hasn’t played a professional match since last March, opting to skip the 2020 French and US Opens due to the coronavirus crisis.
And while Tyzzer concedes the lack of tournament play remains the “biggest unknown” for Barty's Open prospects, he couldn't be happier with the 24-year-old's preparation.
“She’s hit some pretty good form,” he said on Wednesday.
“We’ve played a lot of match play in the last few weeks so she's pretty ready to play. I'm really happy with how she's striking the ball.”
Tyzzer said any negative impacts of not playing have been offset by gains Barty has made to her physical build.
“Physically she is in great shape, she looks a little bit stronger because we have been able to get a lot of that work in early,” Tyzzer said.
“We’ve changed a few things, including changing the gut in her racquet to add velocity to the ball as well.
“It’s certainly added a bit more weight to her ball so there’s a bit more power coming out of her racquet.
“It's also better on her arm. She's had some issues with her arm and the gut is a bit softer in that sense.
“So I feel like we've done some things that have helped her improve her game and time will tell if we've got those right.”
Tyzzer putting Ash Barty in uncomfortable spots
In addition to playing practice matches with fellow Australians Lizette Cabrera, Kim Birrell and Sam Stosur, Tyzzer has pitted Barty against several men's stars “just to give her some variety and to put her in some uncomfortable spots”.
In Melbourne, Barty has regularly taken on respected coach Jake Eames, the hitting partner of former World No.1 and 2018 Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki.
“Matches are completely different. No matter what you do, I don't think you can replicate practice matches,” Tyzzer said.
“That’s probably been the hardest thing for her. That's why some of the boys have tried to push her and put her in some tough situations.”
Barty will play an exhibition against World No.2 Simona Halep in Adelaide on Friday night, before entering the Australian Open as top seed for the second straight year.
Tyzzer says the 2020 semi-finalist has every intention of contending for the trophy.
“She's planning on trying to get through every match she plays and win everything she plays. That's the ultimate goal,” he said.
“But the trouble is you're going to have someone up the other end that wants the same thing.
“The difficulty of doing that over the two-week period is hard and if you strike someone who is in better form than you on the day and plays a better match, then that is what it is.
“(But) she wants to obviously be in the best form she can be and if you can string that together for two weeks, then you're certainly a good chance and hopefully that's what occurs for her at the AO.”
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.