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Ash Barty was back: tennis balls showed up at front door

(AP Photo/Michel Euler)

By DENNIS PASSA

AP Sports Writer

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) Ash Barty's father had a pretty good idea when his daughter had made the decision to return to tennis after nearly two years playing professional cricket.

"One day I came home and found about four boxes of new tennis balls at the front door," Rob Barty told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio on Wednesday. "It was Ash deciding she was going back to play tennis and away she went."

Barty's comeback culminated Saturday with a French Open title, her first Grand Slam singles championship, after beating Marketa Vondrousova in straight sets.

After a first-round loss at the U.S. Open in 2014, Barty decided to step away from tennis. She had been a top junior player, who won the girls' title at the All England Club, but the pressures and stress took their toll.

So she switched to cricket and played the Twenty20 version of the sport in Brisbane.

When she returned to tennis in 2016, her ranking was outside the top 600.

Rob Barty watched his daughter's results on the tennis court improve rapidly.

"She sent me a text when she cracked the top 100 and said `Hey Dad, finally made it. I'm in the top 100'," Rob Barty said. "I can remember speaking to my wife Josie about it and saying I wonder if Ash will ever be as good to be seeded in a Grand Slam event as in top 32. Now here we are 12 to 18 months later she's No. 2 in the world and she's won a Grand Slam."

Barty officially became No. 2 on Monday, the highest ranking by an Australian woman since fellow indigenous star Evonne Goolagong Cawley was No. 1 in 1976.

"Lovers of tennis here and around the world will be delighted by the natural skills and flair Ash possesses," Goolagong Cawley said after Barty's win. "Now they have developed into a beautiful game full of artistry, movement and power. It was there for all to marvel at in Paris. She is a joy to watch."

Barty moved up six places with her win and now trails only reigning U.S. Open and Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka.

Rob and Josie Barty didn't make it to Paris in time to watch the final, but are in Europe and plan to be at Wimbledon next month to watch their daughter play on a grass surface Barty thought was her favorite - until she won on clay in Paris.

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Updated June 11, 2019

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