OPINION: It’s lonely at the top of tennis

Peter FiorenzaGeraldton Guardian
Ashleigh Barty in action against Camila Giorgi of Italy at the 2018 Australian Open at Melbourne Park.
Camera IconAshleigh Barty in action against Camila Giorgi of Italy at the 2018 Australian Open at Melbourne Park. Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

I’ve been in Seventh Heaven.

A lot of you know I like sport, but some may be surprised to know my No.1 is tennis.

Although, I admit, I am hopeless when it comes to picking up a racquet, I have always followed the game from a youngster, and recently could not get enough of television’s summer tennis coverage.

From the Hopman Cup in Perth to the Brisbane and Sydney internationals, and right through the intensive two weeks of the Australian Open in Melbourne, I have been glued to the set.

The coverage has only added to my fascination of a sport that has limited parallels with any other on the international stage.

When we talk the singles format, it is, indeed, a gladiatorial affair for both sexes — a real test of a body and mind combination.

Former great Andre Agassi has said it is the loneliest sport in the world.

On average, at the top of the game, individuals can spend about four hours in a contest, where they have little or no communication with anyone else, and spend the year travelling from tournament to tournament.

Court, locker room, hotel, court, locker room, hotel.

I know other sportsmen and women make their degree of sacrifices in the quest for success, but are they the same?

Tennis’ unique situation was highlighted again when I watched a short documentary about Australia’s Ashleigh Barty.

Barty burst onto the scene several years back with an infectious excitement that grabbed the nation. Was she the big hope for Australian women’s tennis?

The documentary suggested the sheer grind of the competition machine almost saw the talented youngster give the sport (which she had played since a toddler) away for good.

Apparently, the loneliness of the tour had taken its toll on Barty.

It is apparent now that during her time away, she came to the conclusion she did want to be a professional tennis player.

From what I have read and seen from interviews and press conferences in recent months, Barty now presents as a confident and focused person. You could say she is very goal-orientated and she does like the game.

This is also something evident with those currently at the top.

There is no doubt the success of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic is testament to that, which leads us to the puzzle that is Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic.

But, hey, let’s leave that for another day.

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