Ashleigh Barty is currently creating waves in the Australian Open 2019, reaching the quarterfinal with a 4-6,6-1,6-4 win over Maria Sharapova to become the first Australian woman since Jelena Dokic to make the Australian Open quarterfinal. After missing out on previous attempts to reach the main draw of the Australian Open, she has now become the new tennis sensation of the country. But, did you know that she had quit the sport in 2015/16? Did you also know that her love for tennis was rekindled by a stint with another sport, namely cricket? This is a true story of a youngster rediscovering her love for tennis thanks to a stint in cricket.
When one searches Ashleigh Barty on ESPNCricinfo, there is a profile page dedicated to her about her exploits on the cricket field. After a poor show in singles but a mixed performance in doubles tennis, Barty quit the sport and began a stint on the cricket field. At that time, she was jaded with the constant travel and loneliness of being on tour, as well as the pressure from Australian fans desperate for Grand Slam success and the youngster decided tennis was not for her. She retired and in 2014 made the stunning announcement that she would instead play professional cricket in Brisbane, preferring a team sport over tennis' gladiatorial ethos.
In the 2015/16 season, Cricket Australia created a revolution by creating the Women’s Big Bash League and Barty was signed as one of the players in the Brisbane Heat franchise. Barty impressed on debut against Melbourne Stars with 39 off 27 balls but Brisbane Heat lost the game by 20 runs. She played in seven games but managed a double-digit score only one more time.
"There's never a lonesome moment on the field if you're struggling," she said at the time. "There's 10 other girls that can help you out and get you through the tough times."
She eventually returned to tennis but credits her brief foray at the cricket crease with rekindling her love for the sport that has now made her a household name in Australia. "I needed to take that time away. For me, having that 18 months off was vital. I feel like I came back a better person on and off the court, a better tennis player,” Barty said after beating Sharapova.
Barty is not the only Australian athlete who has played multiple sports. Ellyse Perry, considered to be one of the greatest woman cricketers not only in Australia but around the world, also played soccer for the Australia women’s team, the Matildas, in the World Cup. Alyssa Healy, Australia’s wicketkeeper, also plays hockey while Meg Lanning also has played junior hockey for Australia.
One hopes that Ashleigh Barty creates success in the Australia Open. After all, one can say that cricket produced another champion, albeit in another sport.