Ash Barty's incredible comeback from quitting tennis to grand slam champ

Newly-crowned French Open champion Ashleigh Barty said that she did not imagine winning a Grand Slam title "at all" when she took a break from tennis in 2014 to play cricket.

The Australian played for the Brisbane Heat in the Women's Big Bash League four years ago, before returning to tennis ranked 683 in the world.

But she continued her incredible rise on Saturday by thrashing Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 6-3 in the Roland Garros final to lift her maiden major trophy.

"No, not at all," she said of her hopes of winning a grand slam when she started her comeback.

"I think maybe in doubles, if I'm being completely honest. I think I was so close with Casey (Dellacqua) so many times. I felt maybe that was a possibility.

"But I think a new perspective in my life and in my career, it's brought this new belief, I suppose, and this feeling of belonging at the very top level.

"I feel like I'm playing some really good tennis. I know when I play my best tennis, I can match it against the world's best."

Ash Barty took a break to play cricket in 2014. Image: Getty

After winning junior Wimbledon in 2011, Barty struggled to deal with the expectation and pressure placed upon her young shoulders and sensationally walked away from the sport disillusioned and desperate for a break.

She lost in three slam doubles finals alongside Dellacqua in 2013, but had only won two singles matches and lost nine at the big four tournaments when she stepped away five years ago.

She did not play another grand slam singles main-draw tie until 2017, and only reached the second week of a major for the first time at least year's US Open.

The 23-year-old said she does not think she could have seen such an upturn in her fortunes without taking a hiatus.

"Absolutely not. I don't even know if I'd be sitting here talking to you if I was playing tennis (and) if I didn't step away," Barty said.

"It's obviously a part of my life that I needed to deal with, and I feel like it was the best decision that I made at the time, and it was an even better one coming back."

Ashleigh Barty poses with the trophy. (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Cricket warm-up for final

Rain in Paris delayed the start of Barty's final with the men's semi-final between Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem running to a fifth set.

Barty and her team whiled away the time with an impromptu game of cricket in the gym area underneath Court Philippe Chatrier, but the 23-year-old insists despite her enjoyment of the game, tennis will always remain her first love.

"I never closed any doors or said: 'I'm never playing tennis again', she said.

"For me, I needed time to step away, to live a normal life, because this tennis life certainly isn't normal.

"I think I needed time to grow as a person, to mature and I left all of my options open.

"I think it was just a natural progression for me coming back to tennis.

"Tennis will always be a big part of my life. I missed the competition."

Barty's coach Craig Tyzzer believes Barty would not have been able to have compete again at the highest level had she not walked away when she did.

"It was the best thing she ever did: stepping away from the sport," Tyzzer said.

"She wanted to reassess her life. For someone to be able to step back in and play at the level she has after three years out is pretty amazing."

with agencies