As Wimbledon Begins, Ashleigh Barty Is on Top of the World

Tyzzer said there would be no chance of complacency from Barty or the rest of her collective.

“In this game if you sit still, you get overrun pretty quickly,” he said. “We won’t stop continuing to work, continuing to look to get better, and continuing to improve. We know by winning a Slam and becoming No. 1, you don’t walk out and win every match you’re going to play.”

Mention of Barty’s No. 1 status caught Serena Williams off guard during her news conference Saturday. Since she spent the most recent of 319 weeks ranked No. 1 in May 2017, seven players have held the top spot. Williams’s unawareness of Barty’s new position was quickly replaced by pleasant surprise.

“I don’t know anyone that has anything negative to say about her,” Williams said of Barty. “She’s like the sweetest, cutest girl on tour. She’s so nice. She has the most beautiful game, such classic shots. I mean, she does everything right. Her technique is, like, flawless.”

Williams’s delight has been echoed by many in the sport, where Barty is popular for her personality and her game, which includes tools many feared had become obsolete.

“You know what’s happening in tennis: It’s going back to an all-around sport,” Billie Jean King said excitedly last week. “You see the way she plays? It’s like the old days! She’s got a slice backhand, she can hit it, she goes to the net, she stays back, she’s got a great serve.”

Those tools should prove especially effective on the grass courts of Wimbledon, where she is the oddsmakers’ favorite. Her first-round opponent is No. 43 Zheng Saisai.

In another endorsement, Barty had been one of the first players Andy Murray, who is returning from hip surgery, asked to play mixed doubles at Wimbledon. Already committed to playing singles and women’s doubles at Wimbledon, she turned him down. Still, on Saturday he spoke of his admiration for not only her “great hand skills,” but her journey away from and back to the sport, on her own terms.