Family heartache behind Ash Barty's epic run to Wimbledon title
When Ash Barty left Australian shores in March on a quest for glory at the French Open and Wimbledon, she did so without knowing when she might see her family again.
It was late in March when the World No.1 packed her bags for a global tour that she knew was going to thrust her into the unknown after staying at home for the majority of 2020.
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The Queenslander later admitted that there were many tears of sadness when she farewelled her family and boyfriend.
But nearly four months later there were tears of joy on Wimbledon's Centre Court on Saturday.
"It was all 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 told AAP, still not knowing exactly when she'll be back to see the family she's so close to.
"Of course, there were tears in the days leading up. And when I did finally leave."
And there have been plenty of tears since.
Like when she feared her grand slam dreams were falling apart with the "heartbreaking" hip injury she suffered while trying to regain her French Open title in Paris.
And while she's since reunited with boyfriend Garry Kissick at Wimbledon, Barty said it's been so painful to have been away and only able to see her loved ones on long-distance video calls.
And although she knew it was going be a mystery tour, for the large part it's been a magical one.
Ash Barty's ups and downs on remarkable world tour
There have been triumphs in Miami and Stuttgart, but the sweetest tale was written on the London grass on Saturday against Karolina Pliskova in the Wimbledon final.
"I've had ups and downs, and everything in between, and I wouldn't change one day or one moment, or one route we've taken on my path," she told the Centre Court crowd on Thursday.
"It's been unique, it's been incredible, it's been tough, and I wouldn't change one thing about it."
Alongside the calming presence of her small entourage led by coach Craig Tyzzer, Barty's willingness to embrace it all, whether good or bad, has shone through.
"It's about enjoying it along the way and understanding that this is an adventure, that I may never have a year like this again where I'm away from Australia for such an extended period, so I may as well make the most of it," she explained.
The 25-year-old said the most heartbreaking time came after the Italian Open in Rome, when she suffered the recurrence of an old arm injury.
A freak hip problem, incurred when she hit the ground after a serve, then forced her to withdraw during her second round match at the French Open.
"Absolutely. Not every day is flowers and roses," she recalled.
"Paris was a really challenging two or three weeks for myself and my team.
"This last six to eight weeks we've had ups and downs, we've had different challenges but we've learned from every experience and have been able to enjoy this fortnight at Wimbledon.
"I'm extremely grateful I've been healthy most of the time, that mainly we've been able to do week in week out what we'd planned and what we'd hoped for.
"It's been an incredible journey."
Ash Barty's remarkable year
Yarra Valley Classic (Melbourne, February) - champion
Australian Open (Melbourne, February) - quarter-final
Adelaide International (Adelaide, February) - last-16
Miami Open (Miami, March/April) - champion
Charleston Open (Charleston, April)- quarter-final
Stuttgart Grand Prix (Stuttgart, April) - champion
Madrid Open (Madrid, May) - Runner-up
Italian Open (Rome, May) - quarter-final
French Open (Paris, June) - second round
Wimbledon (London, June/July) - champion
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