Why Ash Barty Really Should Win The French Open From Here
"Feels like just yesterday that we started," Ash Barty said after defeating American Madison Keys in Thursday's French Open quarterfinals.
It's been quite a journey.
Three years ago, Barty was ranked lower than 600 in the world, her career was in the balance.
She'd flirted with both cricket and tennis, but this was it. A final commitment to tennis, to see how far she could take this thing.
And now here she is, ranked in the world's top 10, on her way to the top five, and preparing for her maiden French Open semi-final against a player she really should beat -- the unseeded American Amanda Anisimova.
"Jumped on the plane to come over here to start again. So much has happened in between," she said after beating Keys in the quarters.
So much, indeed.
The Queenslander first rose to prominence when she won the 2011 Wimbledon junior championship aged 15.
Her singles rankings steadily rose into the 100s, and she appeared in three Grand Slam doubles finals in 2013.
In 2014, the then-18-year-old qualified for the U.S. Open in New York -- the first time she'd gained entry to a Grand Slam event without a wildcard.
But she made a shock exit from tennis later that year, citing a need for a break from the game.
Though she left the court, she didn't leave sport, switching her racquet for a cricket bat.
During what turned out to be a two-year sabbatical, Barty signed with the Brisbane Heat for the inaugural Women's Big Bash League campaign.
Almost immediately, her impressive strength and hand-eye coordination had punters excited, with then Queensland coach Andy Richards confident Barty could represent the country at some point.
While we'll never know if Richards was right, cricket's loss is tennis' gain.
Upon her return to tennis in 2016, Barty didn't miss a beat, making the quarter-finals or better at three of the four tournaments she played that year.
In January this year she reached her first major quarter-final at the Australian Open, before going on to win in Miami a few months later.
Whatever she does tonight, Barty is already a winner in the eyes of most Australians.
But as by far the highest-ranked player remaining in the women's draw, you sense that anything less than a French Open title would be a disappointment now for the super-competitive Barty.
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