Barty's beautiful tribute to 'best mate' Dellacqua

Tennis ace Ashleigh Barty has paid an emotional tribute to doubles partner and "best mate" Casey Dellacqua after crowning her remarkable season with the Newcombe Medal.

 

Barty was formally recognised as Australia's outstanding player of 2017 on Monday night after soaring from No.271 in the rankings to the world's top 20 in her first full year back on tour after a career switch to cricket.

"It's been an amazing year," Barty said after receiving Australian tennis's highest individual honour from John Newcombe, the legend after which the award was named.

The 21-year-old joins grand slam champions Lleyton Hewitt and Samantha Stosur, along with Nick Kyrgios, Sam Groth and wheelchair champion Dylan Alcott on the honour roll after her breakout season that featured three WTA Tour finals and a maiden top-level title in Malaysia.

A Wimbledon junior champion at just 15, the rising superstar will begin 2018 at No.17 in the world and a genuine chance of winning the Australian Open in January.

But the former teenage prodigy revealed she may have never returned to tennis had it not been for Dellacqua.

Barty and Dellacqua in action during a doubles match. Pic: Getty

"Case, my best mate. She's not here tonight, but I don't think she quite understands how much of a massive impact she has had in my life, bringing me back into the sport to be honest," Barty said.

"She was the one who started the ball rolling again, to sort of finish that unfinished business in doubles and now we've been able to have a pretty amazing singles and doubles year.

"Case is my best friend, my mum on tour, my shoulder to cry on through many times and she helped me through my darkest days and has been able to share this year with me and really helped through it the most.

"Case is probably the biggest thank you of all."

Barty also said she was indebted "to the boss", high-performance coach of the year Craig Tyzzer, and conditioning guru Narelle Sibte for her "massive, massive impact".

Barty pictured with John Newcombe. Pic: Getty

"We started from zero. We had no ranking. We didn't know what tournaments we'd get into and, 18 months later, to be here, it's been a really special year," Barty said.

That it has.

As well as making finals in Kuala Lumpur, Birmingham and Wuhan, Barty was runner-up in the French Open doubles with Dellacqua after the duo became the first all-Australian women's pairing in the open era to reach the title match at all four grand slam events.

In singles, Barty recorded five top-10 wins in total, her scalps including Karolina Pliskova, Garbine Muguruza and Angelique Kerber, who all enjoyed stints at the top of the rankings in 2017, as well as grand slam champions Venus Williams and Jelena Ostapenko.

Barty beat fellow nominees Daria Gavrilova, Kyrgios, John Peers and Jordan Thompson to claim the 2017 medal.

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