Ash Barty named 2020 Young Australian of the Year

Ashleigh Barty, the 23-year-old world No.1 women's tennis player, was named the 2020 Young Australian of the Year on Saturday night.

She was praised for inspiring fans with her "dynamic game, formidable serve and down-to-earth attitude".

Ashleigh Barty, who was named the 2020 Young Australian of the Year on Saturday night. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Ashleigh Barty, who was named the 2020 Young Australian of the Year on Saturday night. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Barty, who was not at the awards ceremony on Saturday night, was surprised earlier in the day by tennis great Pat Rafter in Melbourne at the Australian Open.

"This is bizarre. It really is," Ms Barty said, receiving the award.

"I think, you know, for me, my family, my team - we're just trying to do the best that we can every single day. To be Young Australian of the Year's unbelievable. Very, very humbling. I don't think I'm deserving of it but, yeah, I'm just trying to be me."

She said it was important to focus on being your authentic self in all you did, and striving as high as you could.

"This is incredibly humbling, and I know that it's going to be something that sits very, very high on my mantelpiece at home," she said.

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Barty, who was born in Ipswich, Queensland, started playing tennis when she was aged four, and by the time she was 12, she played against adults.

Her professional career started in 2010, winning the junior title at Wimbledon when she was 15, the second Australian to win the title. At 17, she was a three-times grand slam doubles finalist and ranked inside the world top 100.

After the 2014 US Open, Barty, then 18, announced she would step away from professional tennis.

"It was too much too quickly for me as I've been travelling from quite a young age," she said in 2015.

"I wanted to experience life as a normal teenaged girl and have some normal experiences."

After a stint playing cricket, Barty returned to tennis in 2016, reaching the third round of the Australian Open in 2017 and 2018, and the quarter-final in 2019.

"It's unbelievable. I'm a little bit speechless. I played the perfect match today. I am so proud of myself and my team," she said.

Barty first became the world No.1 in June last year, the first Australian woman to do so since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1976, and the fifth Australian overall.

"I am so proud that another Aboriginal player sits on top of the rankings in women's tennis, particularly a young lady who conveys such happiness in all she does," said Goolagong Cawley, who Barty credits as a mentor.

Barty, whose father Robert is a Ngarigo man, was named the National Indigenous Tennis ambassador in April 2018.

"I'm a very proud Indigenous woman and I think that for me taking on this role is something very close to my heart. I'm very excited," Ms Barty said at the time.

"If we can get more kids playing tennis and more kids enjoying tennis across Australia within the Indigenous communities that would be amazing."

Barty has said she works hard to balance the demands of a busy international schedule playing tennis and her own mental fitness.

"I go home often throughout the year. That's for me how I mentally refresh, physically refresh as well, make sure that I'm ready to go," Ms Barty said last year.

Barty will play the United States' Alison Riske in the fourth round of the Australian Open in Melbourne on Sunday night.

  • Australian Community Media, publisher of The Canberra Times, is a proud supporter and corporate partner of the Australian of the Year Awards.
This story Ash Barty named 2020 Young Australian of the Year first appeared on The Canberra Times.