Tennis

Ashleigh Barty replaces Naomi Osaka as world No. 1

French Open champion to become world No. 1 today after winning Birmingham title

Ashleigh Barty will become the first Australian in 43 years to reach the top of the WTA singles ranking after she won the Birmingham Classic title yesterday.

The 23-year-old beat Germany's Julia Goerges 6-3, 7-5 in the final, meaning she will knock Japan's Naomi Osaka off the summit when the new rankings are released today.

"It's been the most incredible journey for me and my team," Barty said on court after a standing ovation and a warm hug from Goerges, who is also her doubles partner.

"You always dream about (being No. 1) as a little kid but, for it to become a reality, it's incredible and not something that was even in my realm. We were aiming for top 10 this year.

"We started from scratch 3½ years ago without a ranking and now to be where we are is a massive achievement for me and my team."

Barty's route to the top has been an unconventional one.

The former junior Wimbledon champion took an indefinite break from tennis at the end of 2014, recently citing mental health issues as the reason, and played Big Bash cricket for Brisbane Heat before returning to the sport in 2016.

Since then the Queenslander's rise has been remarkable.

This month, she became the first Australian woman to win the French Open for 46 years, and now she has become the 27th woman to reach No. 1 since WTA rankings were introduced in 1975.

Despite the prize at stake, Barty looked calm and composed throughout the final .

Her only moment of concern was when she faced a set-point at 4-5 in the second, but she fired down an ace. Two games later, a Goerges error confirmed Barty's coronation.

The last Australian woman to reach the No. 1 ranking was Evonne Goolagong in 1976 although it came to light only 31 years later, after the discovery of an error in the records.

Like Goolagong, Barty is proud of her indigenous Australian heritage, with her father having Ngarigo ancestry through one of his grandmothers.

"I'm a little bit speechless, it's been a whirlwind few weeks to be honest and to be able to follow in the footsteps of Evonne and even mentioned in the same sentence is incredible," said Barty, who will now be top seed at next month's Wimbledon. - REUTERS

Tennis