Ash Barty hit 39 runs against the Melbourne Stars in 2015. Picture: Colleen Petch
Ash Barty hit 39 runs against the Melbourne Stars in 2015. Picture: Colleen Petch

Moment Barty blew the Heat away

OTHER Australians may win the French Open but Ash Barty will always be the only one to hit a six into the fig trees at Melbourne's Junction Oval along the way.

She did it playing for the Brisbane Heat's WBBL team just over three years ago when she left the field after an innings of 39 against the Melbourne Stars and she smiled and said "I feel I belong.''

And she did. The problem was, deep down, she knew she belonged in tennis even more.

And not for the detour itself but for what followed it.

Barty did not appear to shed tears when she won the French Open yet she cried when she left cricket.

"She was in tears when she told me she was going back to tennis,'' said Heat coach Andy Richards.

"She apologised and I said "what are you sorry about. You gained out of it and we gained out it. It was a win for all of us.''

Richards was part of Barty's one-year odyssey from start to finish and they still have coffees when she returns home.

"She originally presented to the Australian girls and a camp in Brisbane and said she would not mind having a hit. It started out as a little bit of a laugh. She was craving normality in her life.

"She had never really picked up a real bat and faced a real ball but when we chucked her into the nets and we fed about 150 balls into the bowling machine and she might have missed two and mis-hit maybe 10. I've not seen anything like it before or since.

 

Ash Barty’s return to tennis was ‘the right thing to do’, according to her former cricket coach Andy Richards. Picture: Clive Mason/Getty Images
Ash Barty’s return to tennis was ‘the right thing to do’, according to her former cricket coach Andy Richards. Picture: Clive Mason/Getty Images

 

"For someone who plays a cross-hand sport to take to a vertical bat sport. In the first session I did not do a lot of coaching and kept asking her 'are you sure you have you never played this game before?' I was literally blown away.''

The Heat girls playfully tested her resolve early.

"At her first training session Gemma Barsby gave her a fair old sledge by saying "this is not tennis now.'' Barty took a little while to adjust then just started giving it back. From that moment on it was like she was a long-time contracted cricket player. She was great.

"Every time she comes home she always catches up with the girls.

"In the bottom of my heart I always knew she would go back. It was always the right thing to do.''



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