'Proud': Ash Barty speaks out after teen protege's vaccine refusal
Ash Barty has spoken out after Olivia Gadecki opted out of the Australian Open to remain unvaccinated, saying she's "proud" of her protégé for choosing her own path.
Teenage prodigy Gadecki, who beat 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in February to kick-start a phenomenal maiden season on tour, is the first Australian to rule themselves out of the summer of tennis due to the Covid-19 vaccination requirement.
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Tennis Australia reportedly spent weeks trying to convince the 19-year-old to get jabbed in order to meet government regulations required to contest the Open in January - and lead-up tournaments.
However their pleas fell on deaf ears and Gadecki will now miss out on a $140,000 payday she seemed certain to receive if she had accepted a wildcard into the grand slam event.
Addressing the situation after winning a record fourth-consecutive Newcombe Medal on Friday night, Barty threw her support behind Gadecki.
"Liv has her own career. I've spent a lot of time and I have a lot of love and a lot of respect for Olivia," she said.
"I've spoken to her a little bit, but she's an adult and she has her own career and she makes her own decisions.
"That's something that I've said to her a lot of the time.
"For me, I've grown up and made my own decisions. I'm accountable for my own decisions.
"She's done the exact same thing."
Gadecki seemed a shoo-in for an Australian Open wildcard after surging from an obscure, unranked player in January to world No.237.
"Life is not all about money. In fact, that's low down on anyone's priority list," Barty said.
"I think for Liv, it's time for her to reconnect. I continue to chat to her. My opinion of her changes not at all.
"I'm proud that she's made her decision, for her reasons, for her right reasons.
"And that's all you do - is make the right decision for you."
Ash Barty won't try to change Olivia Gadecki's mind
Tennis Australia is expected to continue supporting Gadecki financially through its scholarship program, but only remotely unless the emerging star becomes fully vaccinated.
She also won't be able to train at certain sites around the country, and wont be able to compete in many other WTA and grand slam tournaments unless she's fully vaccinated.
But Barty won't be trying to influence her.
"I'm not in a position where I'm going to try and persuade and do anything in a sense to change her mind," the Australian Open top seed said.
"I'm here as a friend to support her and love her.
"Whenever I see Liv I try and catch up with her. We chat through everything, not just tennis.
"I'm just so glad she's at home at the moment being able to reconnect with her family."
Barty has been assisting and mentoring Gadecki, who made her Fed Cup debut for Australia last month.
"Ash has really helped her," said esteemed women's coach David Taylor.
"Forget about doing things for an image or whatever, Barty seriously puts some effort into this girl - weekly contact, watches her matches online even when she was playing Wimby (Wimbledon).
"One guy sent through a picture of Ash watching her online on an ITF website.
"Hits with her almost always up in Brisbane. Like even in the French Open when Olivia got a wildcard into qualies, Ash was hitting with her on Philippe Chatrier (centre court).
"It's just amazing what Ash has done for this girl. She typically keeps to herself, Ash, but to Olivia, God, she's been so supportive and a real mentor. It's nice."
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