Australian tennis legend Rod Laver says Ashleigh Barty will be “a tough lady to beat” at Wimbledon in July as he and fellow great Margaret Court heaped praise on the new French Open champion.
Barty’s 6-1, 6-3 thrashing of Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova in the Roland Garros final propelled her to number two in the world and Laver said she had all the attributes to win on grass, a surface she favours over clay.
“There are some other big girls out there that are big servers and have good ground strokes but Ash is tenacious, has a good drop shot, good angles, good anticipation,” Laver, who was in Paris to witness the final, told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I really think she’ll be a tough lady to beat.”
Since famously taking a break from tennis late in 2014 to play professional cricket, Barty has returned with a new focus and Laver said it was clear her confidence was much higher.
“You could see her concentration has been much better. Sometimes before, when she missed something she would have a ‘hang-dog’ look about her if she missed a forehand,” said the 80-year-old, who won two French Open titles among his 11 Grand Slams.
“She would drop away and maybe think, ‘This game is too tough to play’. But now everything she hits is perfect.”
Barty was the first Australian woman to win in Paris since the last of Court’s five singles titles there in 1973 – against Chris Evert – and the 24-time Grand Slam winner said she wasn’t surprised at her success.
“I’ve watched most of her matches throughout the year and I’ve seen the improvement. She’s got a very good all-round game,” Court told reporters.
“She can hit through the ball. She can slice, volley, she’s got a good serve and smashes well. There’s an all-round game. There’s not a weakness there.”
And in an era when Australia is more used to the antics of Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic, she also praised the 23-year-old for her “wonderful temperament”.
“She is a very good role model. She is good for our nation. I think she is very refreshing.”