It may seem strange to some that in an individual sport like tennis Ash Barty so often uses the word “team”.
Barty praised her “team” after she won her first major at the French Open last June; she made another mention of her “team” when she climbed to the world number one ranking a few weeks later.
And she highlighted the work of her “team” once again after surviving a stern test in her Australian Open first-round match, a 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 win against the tenacious Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko on Monday evening.
Barty’s humility is renowned and she has never been shy of crediting those who have helped her achieve what she has during her young career.
She believes if she is to go all the way and win the Australian Open in just under a fortnight it will be those in her box, spearheaded by her unassuming coach Craig Tyzzer, who will be as much a part of the victory as she is.
“I’m doing it with my team,” Barty told the media at Melbourne Park following her triumph over Tsurenko.
“We’re doing it as a team. We’re loving it. We’re embracing it. There’s no other way to approach it.
“I think we’re just going along for the ride, trying to play some good tennis.”
A familiar face to Barty was also sitting with her camp inside Rod Laver Arena, as she fought back from a set down to defeat Tsurenko.
Jim Joyce was Barty’s junior coach at the West Brisbane Tennis Centre, first working with her when she was just four.
Joyce may have handed over the coaching reins a long time ago, but he is still on hand to give advice to his former charge at any time.
“It’s always nice to have Jim here,” Barty said.
“I actually saw him in Brisbane (at the Brisbane International), asked him if he was coming down. I didn’t know if he was or not. It’s always nice to have Jimbo there.
“I know he’s always a sounding board if and when I need it. He doesn’t have a lot to say these days. He’s happy to just kind of sit back and watch.
“Obviously he has full trust in Tyz (Tyzzer). I have full trust in Tyz. But it’s always nice knowing that when we need to work on something, he’s only ever a phone call away. He can usually fix it across the phone.
“So he’s pretty bloody good.”
Barty facing tough Open draw
As well as Tsurenko played in the opening set, Barty is mindful she will need to lift her performance in light of how tough her draw will become the deeper she goes in the tournament.
She acknowledged she made a “few too many errors” before prevailing against Tsurenko, but it is unlikely she will be given similar breathing space should she get as far as the semi-finals, where she could meet either Naomi Osaka or Serena Williams.
But if Barty is to reach the last four, she may have to contend with last year’s finalist Petra Kvitova in her quarter of the draw, as well as American 18th seed Alison Riske, who shocked the Australian with a three-set defeat in the fourth round at Wimbledon last year.
Barty, however, is no stranger to returning to the drawing board during a major and she knows she can work on her game with her “team” in her corner, as she looks to become the first local to win the Australian Open since 1978.
“I feel like we’ve been able to do that better and better with each (Grand) Slam (tournament) that I’ve played,” Barty said.
“It’s an experience thing. You have to learn how to deal with it, but it’s getting better.”