Ash Barty advanced to the Last 16 of the Miami Open with a crucial victory over Jelena Ostapenko, but stunned fans after announcing she might not return to Australia until the conclusion of the 2021 season.
Barty, playing her first tournament outside of Australia in more than a year, cruised past Ostapenko 6-3, 6-2 to set up a blockbuster clash with either Angelique Kerber or Victoria Azarenka.
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But the World No.1 was open with reporters following the clash when asked about her plans heading into the European clay court season.
With Australia's strict quarantine laws, Barty has admitted it could result in her team remaining in the US and Europe until the end of the 2021 season.
“Obviously with the quarantine laws in Australia, we do our two weeks’ quarantine in a hotel, and there is actually not a lot of space in the season to be able to do that just to get home for the two weeks,” Barty said.
“So at this stage we’re planning to be away until after the US Open and potentially right to the end of season.”
Barty in tears after leaving Australia for tennis Tour
Barty admitted the extended period away from home, which could see her away from Australia until after the US Open finished in September, had her in tears before her departure.
“Without a doubt it was something that was new to me, new to try and wrap my head around and comprehend where we’re going to be away for such an extended period,” Barty added.
“Of course there were tears the days leading up. There were tears when I did finally leave, and then when we left. Then we were delayed and had to leave again. It was all kind of happening.”
Barty is defending her 2019 Miami Open title after the 2020 tournament was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Aussie World No.1 is also attempting to hold on to her WTA ranking from a fast-approaching Naomi Osaka.
Barty reached the World No.1 ranking, not long after her maiden Grand Slam title at the 2019 French Open, on the 24th June, 2019, and has maintained her run at the top of the women's game since.
The Australian was helped due to the player rankings being frozen and a 'best-of' system introduced after the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on the sports world last year.
But Osaka's stunning start to the 2021 season could see her leapfrog Barty with a strong performance at the Miami Open this week.
Barty must defend her 1000 points as the Miami Open 2019 winner.
Osaka only has 65 points to defend, so if Osaka is to win the tournament she will boost her points from 7,835 to 8,770.
If Barty reaches the final, along with Osaka, she will retain her No.1 ranking.
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