'Not appropriate': Ash Barty under fire over 'weird' baby stunt

Ash Barty won praise for concentrating on the more important things in life after her Australian Open semi-final loss to Sofia Kenin on Thursday - but not everyone saw it the same way.

The world number one brought her her 12-week old niece to the post-match press conference, with many fans online loving her response to Australian Open heartbreak.

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"This is what life's all about,” Barty told reporters.

“This is amazing.”

Ashleigh Barty answering questions holding her niece at the Australian Open press conference.
Ashleigh Barty of Australia with her neice Olivia speaks to the media during a press conference. (AAP)

Barty added she felt her Aussie Summer was a success.

“It’s been a hell of a summer,” Barty told reporters.

“I mean, if you would have told me three weeks ago that we would have won a tournament in Adelaide, made the semi-finals of the Australian Open, I’d take that absolutely every single day of the week.”

Barty draws criticism

But not everyone felt the same way though - tennis commentators described the bub as a ‘human shield’ when discussing the women’s semi-final and subsequent press conference on The Tennis Podcast.

BBC commentator David Law found bringing her niece into the press conference helped her avoid questions reporters may have wanted to ask about her loss, despite being favourite.

“I think it is a place of work. It’s an office space. We are there to ask questions and, as lovely a sight as it was on one hand, it’s not really what’s supposed to go on,” Law told the podcast.

Tennis analyst Matt Roberts said the move “felt like a deflection” to the hard questions Barty may have been asked because she is the World No.1 and was playing at her home Grand Slam.

Ash Barty lost in the Australian Open semi-final to Sofia Kenin. (Getty Images)
Ash Barty lost in the Australian Open semi-final to Sofia Kenin. (Getty Images)

On the same podcast, broadcaster Catherine Whitaker agreed with the pair and joked her niece acted as a “human shield” and a barrier against the media.

But she also agreed Barty’s humble character meant it was unlikely she brought her niece in to deliberately avoid questions, but rather it was incidental and a good distraction for her.

“She just thinks, ‘This is a distraction for me’ — but the thing is, it’s also a distraction for everybody else and not very helpful,” Whitaker said.

“It’s not appropriate in the workplace. I don’t think that makes her a terrible person for doing it — somebody should have stopped her doing it, probably.

“I don’t know what the circumstances are but it was really weird.”

Despite the criticism, Barty again seemed in good spirits after she posted a photo of her smiling with her team and her niece after the heartbreaking loss.