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- Australian tennis player
Gary Kissick has paid a touching birthday tribute to girlfriend Ash Barty amid her stunning march to the title at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart.
Barty celebrated her 25th birthday weekend by winning two titles and a brand new sports car after a third-consecutive comeback in the singles final against Aryna Sabalenka.
The World No.1, who turned 25 on Saturday, followed up her singles triumph by also winning the doubles title just a few hours later.
Amid the incredible double triumph, Barty's boyfriend posted a touching tribute to the tennis superstar.
"Happy Birthday to the No.1 dog mum Ash Barty," Kissick wrote alongside a photo of Barty and the couple's dogs.
"We all miss you but the puppies do enjoy the relaxed house rules while you're away."
Barty and Kissick have been forced apart and are unlikely to see each other again until the end of the year.
On her way to winning the Miami Open title earlier this month, Barty revealed her heartbreak and having to leave her loved ones behind in Australia as she spends the majority of the year overseas.
Barty admitted she was in tears when she left Australia and may not be able to return home until the end of the 2021 season.
The World No.1 said COVID-19 hotel quarantine requirements in Australia make scheduling a journey home during the season very difficult.
"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," she said.
"So at this stage we're planning to be away until after the US Open (in September) and potentially right to the end of season."
Kissick opted not to travel with Barty, choosing to stay home in Australia and focus on his golf career.
Barty admitted the stretch away from home that could last until November is taking some getting used to.
"Without a doubt it was something that was new to me, new to try and wrap my head around and comprehend," Barty said.
"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."
Ash Barty in fine form ahead of French Open
Her brilliant three-set victory over Sabalenka was the sign of a champion who, as Barty conceded herself, is now taking her game "to a kind of a new level."
After picking up a third title of the year in Stuttgart, the 25-year-old birthday girl explained that it was because she felt she was now playing "tennis without consequence".
"For me, it's a level of freedom," said Barty.
"If I miss or make a mistake, it's okay. It's not going to be the end of the world if I make a few errors. It's just playing without consequence and not focusing on the result as such."
The World No.1 reckoned her new approach stemmed from work she had done with mindset coach Ben Crowe.
"There are many things we've worked on. It's something I've always tried to do and always remind myself of what it felt like to play when I was a little kid.
"It didn't matter what happened, it was just about the playing.
"That's a massive part of who I am now. I want to go out there and have fun because ultimately it's what I love to do and results weren't my love for the sport or how I feel about the sports.
"It's just trying to find the right way in the right spirit."
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