Australia’s Ashleigh Barty has revealed that her decision to take a break from tennis and move to cricket has helped revive her love for the sport that has made a household name in the sport mad nation. She beat former Australian Open champion Maria Sharapova in the fourth round to set up a quarterfinal with Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova on Tuesday.
But Barty’s career was in crisis mode a few years ago, when the Queenslander walked away from the sport she had played since she was a toddler. Affected by constant travel and loneliness of being on tour compounded by the pressure exerted by Australian fans desperate for Grand Slam success, Barty decided tennis was not for her.
“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 retired from the sport and in 2014 made the stunning announcement that she would instead play professional cricket in Brisbane. Barty played for the Brisbane Heat in the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL), scoring 39 runs from 27 deliveries on debut against the Melbourne Stars.
She eventually returned to tennis but credits her brief foray in cricket with rekindling her love for the sport that has now made her a household name in Australia.
“I needed to take that time away,” she said after downing Sharapova. “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.