• REUTERS

  • SHARE

Australian Ash Barty has provided no clarity about if she will compete regularly on the women’s tour amid the COVID-19 pandemic even as Naomi Osaka closes in on the No. 1 ranking after claiming her fourth Grand Slam title on Saturday in Melbourne.

Barty accepted a wildcard to defend her Adelaide International title this week after losing to Czech Karolina Muchova in the Australian Open quarterfinals.

The Queenslander skipped last year’s U.S. Open and did not defend her 2019 French Open title, opting not to travel due to health concerns amid the pandemic.

Barty, who is expected to head to the Middle East next month to play WTA events in Doha and Dubai, said she faced no fitness issues during the Melbourne Park swing despite returning to the circuit an absence of 11 months.

“We plan as best as we can,” the 24-year-old told reporters in Adelaide on Monday. “Obviously in the current situation nothing’s certain. It’s difficult to plan, without a doubt, but we just go with the advice that we have been given.

“Of course I would love to be back on tour full-time, and all those decisions will come as close as we can to the events, but also as far out to try and plan a schedule and plan a tour.”

Despite not playing for 11 month, Barty held on to the No. 1 ranking as the WTA adjusted the rankings during the pandemic, allowing players to skip tournaments without the fear of losing points.

The second-ranked Osaka won last year’s U.S. Open and this year’s Australian Open, but still finds herself more than 1,300 points behind Barty.

“There’s no extra pressure. The extra pressure is non-existent for me,” Barty said about Osaka’s ascent.

“I can’t control what anyone else does. For the tournaments or with the rankings, that’s out of my control. As for defending points, I think that’s a very negative way to look at it.”

The rivalry between Barty and the 23-year-old Osaka could be the highlight of the tour for the next few years.

“I’ve only played her a couple times. We haven’t played a lot,” Barty said, adding she did not watch Saturday’s final between Osaka and American Jennifer Brady.

“So hopefully it’s an opportunity for me to play against her in some big moments in big tournaments. That’s what we dream of … trying to put yourself in position to win big titles.

“So maybe it will happen one day but for the time being that’s not what I’m stressed about.”

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

PHOTO GALLERY (CLICK TO ENLARGE)