Former junior Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty could become Australia’s next multi-sport wonder after revealing her plans to return to tennis after a season of cricket.
Barty quit tennis 17 months ago after struggling to deal with the demands of the sport.
She spent the summer playing in the Women’s Big Bash League with her home-town team Brisbane Heat.
But the fire still burns and Barty will give her first sporting love a second crack – which could begin as early as this month in Perth.
“I was very young, but I turn 20 this year and it’s a different perspective on life and tennis in general,” she told the WTA website.
“If it works, great. If it doesn’t, I can’t really complain.
“I’ve had a phenomenal career for the short time that I did play.
“I’m just prepared to work up that slow grind up the (second-tier tour) ITFs and hopefully be up with the (first-tier tour) WTA soon.”
Barty reached a career-high world ranking of 129 in 2013 as a 17-year-old and was seen as a likely contender to eventually replace Sam Stosur as Australia’s No.1 woman.
That year, she made grand slam doubles finals at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open and won a rubber at the Fed Cup.
Barty said enjoying that level of success before she turned 18 contributed to swapping her racquet for a bat and pads.
“It was obviously phenomenal, but it all happened a little bit too quickly,” Barty said.
“I went from not being known anywhere in the world to winning junior Wimbledon and six months later playing the Australian Open.
“I was a victim of my own success, really.”
Barty previously nominated cricket’s team comraderie as a key reason to turn her back on the isolating lifestyle of professional tennis.
Her WBBL coach, Andy Richards, said Barty was pondering whether she could do both.
“We’ve left the door open … we’ve spoken about it,” he said.
“Tennis is international and it’s different times of the year but she could play both without too many issues I think.
“She’s only 20. I still believe in due course she’ll get back with cricket at some stage.”
Barty made a splash by scoring 39 on debut for the Heat and while she struggled for the rest of the campaign, she continued to score runs at club level.
Richards said he could have seen Barty earning a call-up to the Australian cricket team, alongside dual-international Ellyse Perry.
“With another 12 months in the game, she wasn’t going to be far away,” he said.
“She’s currently our leading run-scorer in club cricket in Brisbane.
“I think she could definitely play both.”