Ash Barty's former coach has lifted the lid on the Aussie star's return from the tennis wilderness to claim the Australian Open title and break the country's 44-year curse.
Desperately homesick and burnt out from the grind of life on the gruelling world tour, the teenage prodigy dramatically quit tennis after a demoralising first-round defeat at the US Open in 2014.
After a stint playing professional cricket for the Brisbane Heat in the Women's Big Bash League, Barty re-embarked on her tennis comeback in early 2016.
"It would have been the biggest tragedy in tennis in Australia, if not sport, if she hadn't come back and played – and just never played again," former coach Jim Joyce told Wide World of Sports on Tuesday.
"It would have been the biggest waste. I knew she had the ability. What a tragedy that would have been if she never played again."
In the midst of her hiatus from professional tennis, Barty and Joyce were conducting tennis lessons for the general public at the West Brisbane Tennis Centre for $16.50 per class.
"Kids were pretty spoiled… I think it might cost a bit more than that now," Joyce said.
"She was coaching ladies, older women as well and was just loving it. I was going 'I've got to get her back (into playing pro tennis)', but you couldn't force her into it, it had to come from her."
How cool is this?
Coulda had eight tennis lessons with Ash Barty for $132 for a moment there.https://t.co/dS9QoE7KDz
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 29, 2022
Barty hired Craig Tyzzer to be her new coach upon her return and trusted her mentor to build the tight-knit Team Barty that remains in place six years on.
"Without a doubt, this second phase of my career I've learnt so much more about myself as a person," said Barty.
"I've grown so much more as a person. Without that adversity I wouldn't be half the person or player that I am now.
"We all have to find our low points to grow from them. Being able to do that and make a really incredible team for this second phase has been the best part of it.
"Right from the start, from February 2016 when I played my first 25 thousand (dollar) tournament in Esperance - just doubles.
"Being able to start there with 'Tyzz' and essentially the same team that we have right now, it is really cool that we've done it together because there's no-one else I'd prefer to do it with."
Ash Barty wasn't sure if she would ever return to tennis
The 25-year-old admits there was a genuine chance that she was never going to return to pro tennis.
"It was an open door. It genuinely was a 'maybe'," Barty said while savouring her 6-3 7-6 (7-2) victory over Danielle Collins in the Australian Open final.
"I didn't want to draw a line in the sand. I wasn't prepared to draw a line in the sand.
"I think not making that definite decision almost made the decision for itself, that (a return) was going to happen. It was just a case of when it would happen."
Barty said she could never have imagined joining all-time greats Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic as the only active players to have won majors on all three surfaces - clay, grass and hard courts.
"We spoke about it as a team and understood and reflected on what (winning) Wimbledon meant," Barty said.
"The French Open in 2019, I was a completely different person. I still had so much growing and learning to do and Wimbledon, I felt, well it was a dream.
"It was the thing I always wanted as a child.
"And maybe now having experienced this at home and played probably my best slam from start to finish here in Australia and do it with such enjoyment is maybe a full-circle moment.
"Understanding what I want most as a player and a person and being able to experience that and have that opportunity to play seven matches on Rod Laver Arena in front of the Australian public and enjoy that with my team is really cool."
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