Barty’s loss to tennis is cricket’s gain

She was once dubbed the next Martina Hingis, but maybe Ashleigh Barty is more in the Ellyse Perry mould.

Proving herself a rare sporting all-rounder, Barty’s new contract with the Brisbane Heat to play in the inaugural Women’s Big Bash League comes four years after she won the Wimbledon junior crown at just 15.

But now the teenage prodigy appears to have left tennis behind for good to pursue a professional career in cricket instead.

It is a major blow for tennis, even if her announcement on Wednesday merely confirmed her “indefinite break” from her first sporting love was always likely to be permanent.

A year after reaching three grand slam doubles finals with fellow Australian Casey Dellacqua in 2013, Barty shocked the tennis world last September by deciding to take time out.

The 19-year-old hasn’t really looked like coming back.

Barty’s loss to tennis realises former Australian Fed Cup captain David Taylor’s worst fears.

A one-time hitting partner of Hingis’s, Taylor predicted the similarly diminutive and crafty Barty could one day become the next Swiss Miss, perhaps even better than the five-times grand slam champion and former world No.1.

Taylor’s high hopes, though, came with a word of warning to Australian tennis fans and officials from burdening the young teenage sensation with unfair expectations.

“She’s the real deal. She is amazing,” Taylor told AAP after her stunning Wimbledon junior triumph.

“But we have to be careful with her,” he said.

“People are excited because she is such an outstanding talent and we haven’t had one like that for so long.

“But she’s still got a long way to go and so many things can wrong before she becomes a top-20 player.

“She’s not even close to that. The distance she has to travel to get there is way off so let’s just be excited about her potential for now, eh.”

Five months after her breakthrough at the All England Club, Barty won the Australian Open wildcard playoff to confirm her immense talent.

“She’s a complete tennis player, an updated and better version of Hingis. She already serves better,” said Taylor.

“I haven’t seen anyone with this much potential before.

“Barty doesn’t have the power of Venus or Serena but she’s got intuition that you can’t really teach.”

Barty’s meteoric rise continued with selection Australia’s Fed Cup team at just 16, the youngest since Jelena Dokic 15 years earlier, and her maiden grand slam win at the 2013 French Open.

She also reached the second round of the US Open in 2013 to climb to a career-high No.129 in the world.

But out of the blue last September, Barty called it quits, the indigenous youngster struggling with home sickness and the grind of the sometimes isolating professional tennis tour.

Now a career in cricket – after top-scoring with 63 not out off 60 balls and taking 2-13 from four overs in her T20 debut for Western Suburbs in the Brisbane Women’s Premier competition last weekend – seemingly awaits.

ASH BARTY THE TEENAGE TENNIS PRODIGY TURNED CRICKETER

2011: Wins Wimbledon junior crown at 15.

2013: Makes her Fed Cup debut for Australia at 16, the youngest to do so since Jelena Dokic in 1998.

2013: Wins grand slam first-round matches at the French Open and US Open to climb to career-high ranking of No.129 in the world.

2013: Reaches grand slam doubles finals with Casey Dellacqua at Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open.

2014: Announces in September that she is taking an “indefinite break” from tennis.

2015: Signs with the Brisbane Heat to play in the inaugural Women’s Big Bash League.

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