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After Epic Journey, Ash Barty Launches Long Road Trip in Miami

Reigning Miami Open champion Ashleigh Barty may not return home to Australia until Christmas. EPA-EFE/DAVE HUNT

Parting can be painful.

Ashleigh Barty bid a wistful farewell to family and friends flying from Brisbane to Miami knowing she may not be back home until Christmas.

The world No. 1 and coach Craig Tyzzer endured an arduous 45-hour trip from Brisbane to Miami that is the first leg of what may well be the longest sustained road trip of Barty’s career.

Given the uncertainty over the pandemic, the 2019 Miami Open champion said leaving home was especially emotional this time because she doesn’t know when she will be back.

“Yeah, it’s an adventure for us. It’s a new experience,” Barty said in her Miami Open media conference today. “It’s something that we haven’t done before, Tyz and I. When leaving Australia, it was quite hard to leave and quite emotional to me. But I think we’re excited to have the opportunity to play the whole season.

“So I think we’re looking at staying away the whole season. Touch wood, everything goes well with the rest of the world, where we’ll be traveling to and playing tournaments, we’ll be able to play safely and feel really comfortable. I think we can’t plan too far ahead. As we know, everything can still change so rapidly.”

The 2019 Roland Garros champion’s journey to South Florida was anything but rapid. Barty said a flight cancellation in Australia complicated and lengthened the trip.

“It was a long one. It was about 48 hours, 45 hours door-to-door, for us,” Barty said. “What should have been quite a simple Brisbane-Sydney, Sydney to L.A., L.A. on to Miami is usually quite an easy trip. We had a fight cancellation leaving Australia, another fight cancellation when we got to L.A. It was quite a wriggle around.

“Now we’re here. Tough playing tennis after traveling again. Quite a while since I’ve done that. I’m looking forward to feeling good in another day’s time and we’ll be ready to go.”

Coach Tyzzer said Barty is considering setting up a base camp in Europe for the rest of the season.

“We’re hoping that we’ll set up some sort of base somewhere probably in Europe where we can at least switch off and relax and spend some time away from tennis, maybe a bit of golf for Ash” Tyzzer told Australia’s 9News last month. “We’re yet to finalize anything in that regard. But yeah, we’re planning on being away for a while.”

When the pro circuit resumed last August after a five-month break due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Barty opted to remain in Australia because she wasn’t able to train with Tyzzer during the pandemic and had concerns about getting back home if she left. Consequently, she didn’t defend her Roland Garros title.

Hall of Famer Martina Navratilova says location and lack of match play in recent months remain two of Barty’s biggest obstacles in her efforts to defend Miami, which was not staged last year due to the pandemic.

“Ash was hamstrung by geography. She couldn’t train with her coach, he was in another state,” Navratilova said. “Rather than to come half prepared for the event, she chose not to play, which I think was the right choice. She looked pretty sharp in Australia, but not as sharp as the players that had played more matches. There’s no substitute for that.

“Now, she played in Australia, although she didn’t play Dubai and Doha again. I don’t know how much has to do with any quarantine situation. Once she leaves, she can’t get back into the country, et cetera. It’s complicated. I think now when she’s on the road, who knows when she’ll get back home.”

After she shakes off the jet leg from her marathon trip, Barty says she’s eager to get back on the court.

“I think we’re extremely excited to be back playing and have the opportunity to come out here and feel like we’re in a very safe environment, to be able to play and enjoy what we do,” Barty said. “It was certainly bizarre leaving Australia. We had quite a lengthy trip over here, had a couple flight cancellations. It turned out to be a near 50-hour trip to get here.

“Certainly not the easiest one getting over here. Nice to be back competing, doing what we love. Obviously a tournament we have so many good memories. This week for me a couple years was one of the best of my career where I played consistent tennis throughout the whole week.”