Renowned coach and former Australian Fed Cup captain David Taylor says Ashleigh Barty’s sporting switch to cricket highlights just how isolating life on the professional tennis tour can be.
Taylor, Samantha Stosur’s long-time mentor and former coach of Martina Hingis and Alicia Molik, is tipping Barty to flourish in cricket’s team environment after the 19-year-old signed with Brisbane Heat to play in the inaugural Women’s Big Bash League.
“Ash was a special talent and whilst it’s obviously a big loss to Australian women’s tennis, I’m happy for Ash that she’s found something that she enjoys doing and that utilises her natural sporting attributes,” Taylor told AAP.
“Ash was a very naturally gifted tennis player with exceptional hand-eye coordination.
“I’d imagine that would easily translate to success in cricket.”
Feeling homesick, the former Wimbledon junior champion and three-times grand slam doubles finalist took time out from tennis last September.
“I believe the change in her career path highlights how incredibly difficult playing tennis professionally can be for a young woman, due mostly to the travel demands,” Taylor said.
“Tennis can be an incredibly lonely profession in the developmental years, especially for talented girls when they’re forced to compete and travel with players much older and often with very little in common besides tennis.
“I’d imagine a team sport environment would seem a fair bit more enjoyable, especially through the tough times.”
Taylor introduced Barty to Fed Cup as a 16-year-old after likening her cunning court craft to Hingis.
At the time, though, he warned Australian tennis fans not to overburden the exciting prodigy her with unfair expectations.
He totally understands why Barty – who earned more than a million dollars during her brief tennis career – has given up the chance to make big money in women’s sport’s most profitable profession.
“Being a professional athlete isn’t a normal thing and therefore the personal sacrifices to achieve this aren’t normal either,” Taylor said.
“Sure, there is much to be gained in terms of money and fame but also a lot is given up and therefore for some it simply isn’t worth it.”
As a WBBL player, Barty stands to collect a maximum of $10,000 this season, but she says any money earned playing a sport she loves is merely a bonus.