Ash Barty set for history-making gong after stellar 2021 season

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Ash Barty, pictured here with partner Garry Kissick at the 2019 Newcombe Medal.
Ash Barty with partner Garry Kissick at the 2019 Newcombe Medal. Image: Getty

Ash Barty is all-but certain to win a record fourth-successive Newcombe Medal after Tennis Australia revealed on Monday that the prestigious award will return in 2021.

The Newcombe Medal was cancelled last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, robbing Barty of the chance to win it for a fourth time.

However the World No.1 will not be denied in 2021.

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Australian tennis' night of nights will be be held remotely on December 17, but the traditional glitzy function has been abandoned as Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc in Victoria.

Nevertheless, Barty will almost-certainly be recognised with the prestigious award following another memorable season - the 25-year-old's best yet to date.

The World No.1 added the Wimbledon crown and four other titles to her 2019 French Open trophy to be the overwhelming favourite for the Newcombe Medal.

In any other year but 2020, Barty would have been a shoo-in last year as well to be crowned Australian tennis' most outstanding performer despite stellar seasons from Alex de Minaur, John Millman and Jordan Thompson.

De Minaur made his maiden grand slam quarter-final last year at the US Open, where Thompson reached the second week of a major for the first time, while Millman nabbed his first ATP title in Kazakhstan.

In 2020, the Queenslander successfully retained her season-ending World No.1 ranking after landing her eighth career title in Adelaide in January before reaching the Australian Open semi-finals under intense pressure as the top-seeded big local hope.

But the pandemic forced officials to cancel the "Newks" for the first time since their inception in 2020.

Barty will be the first player since Samantha Stosur to capture four Newcombe Medals, let alone in succession, eclipsing Stosur's hat-trick from 2010 to 2012.

Alex de Minaur and Ash Barty, pictured here with John Newcombe after winning the gong in 2018.
Alex de Minaur and Ash Barty with John Newcombe after winning the gong in 2018. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Ash Barty's historic World No.1 milestone

Barty hasn't played since the US Open in September and won't play again until the Australian Open in January.

However the Aussie superstar is guaranteed to end the year as World No.1 for the third year running.

That feat puts her equal with tennis legends Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Serena Williams.

Despite announcing that she won't defend her season-ending crown at the rescheduled and relocated WTA Finals in Mexico this month, officials have confirmed Barty can't be surpassed in the 2021 rankings.

Aryna Sabalenka's quarter-final loss to Ekaterina Alexandrova at Moscow's Kremlin Cup sealed the deal for Barty, who holds a massive rankings lead over her rivals.

Barty is the only woman to have hoisted trophies on grass, clay and hard courts in 2021.

"No doubt the player of the year," esteemed coach and former Australian Fed Cup captain David Taylor told AAP.

"You look at Roger (Federer), he can tactically win with such an array of tactics and having coached on the WTA Tour for so long, you're often left with quite a very narrow set of tactics for most of your players on there.

"With Ash, she's dangerous on all surfaces, which she's obviously already proven, and she's won the two biggest grand slams on the most contrasting surfaces so she's got a lot of ways to win matches.

"The WTA has a lot of great ball strikers but she's a great tennis player and that's the big difference."

"I'm stating the obvious but she really is the best tennis player, not just the best ball striker."

with AAP

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