Ashleigh Barty has risen to the world’s top 20.
Ashleigh Barty has risen to the world’s top 20.

Barty resurgence catches eye of grand slam great

GRAND slam great Steffi Graf has lauded Ashleigh Barty's extraordinary rise to the top of the Australian rankings, describing the Queenslander's return to tennis as "incredible."

Winner of 22 singles majors, Graf watched Barty rise to world No 17 by reaching the Elite Trophy semi-finals in Zhuhai - less than a year since sitting outside the world's top 300.

"You know, I did see her at the very beginning of her career. She came and, I think, surprised all the players with her style early on in her career," seven-time Wimbledon champion Graf said.

"I don't completely know exactly how she came back to playing cricket and then back to tennis but it is a pretty incredible story.

"Seeing her play so well, especially this year from where she's started to where she's ending, it's a pretty incredible speed of how she's finding herself back into the tennis tour.

"The Australians always have an interesting style of tennis and she's one of them, she's got great hands and a lot of potential and it's great to see her back in the sport of tennis."

Barty, 21, walked away from tennis in 2014 and played cricket for the Brisbane Heat.

Since returning to tennis, Barty has reaffirmed the talent which propelled her to the Wimbledon junior singles title at 15.

She is now a raging favourite to claim the Newcombe Medal this month as Australia's best-performed player with a maiden singles title from three finals and sustained doubles excellence with Casey Dellacqua.

Graf predicts Serena Williams will overtake Margaret Court's record of 24 majors after the American resumes from having her first child.

"Absolutely, yes. I think a lot of it is determined on her drive and if that is what she wants to do," Graf said.

Grand slam great Steffi Graf with her husband Andre Agassi.
Grand slam great Steffi Graf with her husband Andre Agassi.


"It sounds from what I hear that she is looking to come back to tennis and, you know, everything that she has shown over her career just makes you believe that if she has that in her sights then she will go after it and achieve it."

Williams, who wants to resume at January's Australian Open, owns 23 majors.

Graf, who lives in Las Vegas, has no plans to follow her husband Andre Agassi into coaching.

Agassi is working with Novak Djokovic.

"No I haven't put too much thought into that," Graf said.

"I think one parent being not at home with two kids at home is enough.

"Two parents gone, with two teenagers is a lot of trouble.

"Even with Andre, as committed as he is to working with Novak and helping him, he won't do a full year schedule with being at all the tournaments.

"I think they will select a few. It's not going to be a whole season. Our lives with our kids...are already pretty busy. Unfortunately that (coaching) wouldn't be something which right now, has room."