Ash Barty is ready to play in Adelaide, but beyond that the Aussie star can’t commit to much

Defending points to keep her number one ranking is the last thing Ash Barty is thinking about as she tries to plot her way through 2021.

Fresh off her quarter-final defeat at the Australian Open, Barty is in Adelaide to defend her title knowing she’s become the hunted having held on the top ranking despite not playing for most of 2020.

The 24-year-old Queenslander is still more than 1000 rankings points clear of two-time Australian open champion Naomi Osaka, who has won four of the past nine Grand Slams played, thanks to the WTA’s changes to its system last year.

Barty though, who didn’t watch Osaka’s triumph at Melbourne Park on Saturday night, will continue to prioritise the health and safety of both her and her team as they look to play more this year.

“As for defending points, I think it’s a very negative way of looking at it,” Barty said in Adelaide on Monday.

“We plan as best that we can but obviously in the current situation nothing is certain, it‘s difficult.

“We just go with the advice that we have been given, we trust that the situation that we‘re going into is the right situation, it’s safe and all of the right protocols have been put in place.

“So for the time being, we focus on this week … and we move onto the schedule a little bit later on.

“I would love to be back on tour full time and all those decisions will come as close as we can to the event but … it‘s hard for me to comment right now.”

Barty said events like Wimbledon and the French Open, where she won her lone Grand Slam title in 2019, were a “long way off” and she wouldn’t get caught thinking that far ahead.

Nor has Barty thought about a burgeoning rivalry with Osaka, who has asserted herself as the player everyone now has to beat.

World No.1 @ashbarty headlines an Adelaide International field featuring six of the world’s top 20 and a potential quarterfinal clash between the past two Roland Garros champions #AdelaideTennis

“I‘ve only played her a couple times. We haven’t played a lot,” Barty said.

“Obviously it’s depending on how the draw falls in a lot of tournaments. So hopefully it’s an opportunity for me to play against her in some big moments in big tournaments.

“That’s what we dream of is trying to put yourself in position to win big titles. So maybe it will happen one day but for the time being that’s not what I’m stressed about.”

Barty she had moved on from her loss in Melbourne, which was “tough”, but not painful.

“All losses are tough. None are painful,” she said.

“I think for me there’s only positives to gain from it, the learnings are positive, and we come into another opportunity here this week in Adelaide where we have a place where we have had great memories before, obviously just a few weeks ago playing here was fantastic as well.”

Barty withdrew from the doubles draw at the Open and played singles with strapping around a thigh, but declared herself fully fit entering Adelaide.

“The body is great … every time I walk out onto the court I am fit,” she said.

“I‘m here to play and I have absolutely no concerns with that whatsoever.”

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