Barty eyes US mission
MUCH has changed for Ipswich's Ashleigh Barty in the year since her breakthrough win at the 2011 Wimbledon girls championships.
But with two precious weeks away from tennis, the 16-year-old is taking comfort in the knowledge that on the home front, things are just as she left them.
"It's been good," Barty said of the short time she has to spend with family and friends.
"At home resting. A bit of time with family.
"I'm not at home as often as I'd like."
There is no cure for that at the moment, with Barty off to Melbourne at the weekend for training ahead of an assault in the US hard-court season.
"It should be good to try again (in the US)," she said.
"I'm playing a few 75 ($75,000) and 50 ($50,000) tournaments, which is a step up from last time."
Barty hopes it will earn her a spot in the senior draw of the US Open.
"I'll see how it goes," Barty said.
"We'll see what my ranking (currently 250) gets to. I wasn't expecting to play at the majors this year but have been fortunate to play in three main draws."
She has already contested the senior Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon this year.
The most recent of those was her first round loss (6-2, 6-4) at Wimbledon to Roberta Vinci.
It followed a first round exit to world number four Petra Kvitova (6-1, 6-2) at the French Open.
"It was a really good experience," Barty said.
"They were all different."
Facing Kvitova first up in Paris would have been a daunting assignment for most players.
But Barty, as usual, took it in her stride.
"Kvitova is at a different level," Barty said.
"She's a grand slam champ.
"It was a good match and I learnt a lot."
While fellow 2011 Aussie junior Wimbledon champ Luke Saville chose to defend his crown (losing the boys' final), Barty had no regrets contesting the main draw.
"Not really," she said.
"I played well against Vinci.
"I learnt different things at each tournament. It's been a good year.
"Hopefully I can finish the year strongly."
Apart from improving her game, the learning curve that comes from exposure amongst the best players in the world has been Barty's main focus this year.
She is confident it is paying off.
"You've got to take on board everything," Barty said.
"Learn how to deal with the mental side and the physical side of it and how to handle the big occasion.
"(The ranking) kind of looks after itself. I'm definitely making goals.
"I've already achieved more this year than I thought I would.
"Every match I win is a bonus.
"I'm happy with the way I'm going because I've kept up playing pretty good tennis.
"I've come to the point now where I'm just looking to improve every time I play."
In that regard, nothing has changed.
- Age: 16
- World ranking: 250
- Plays: Right handed
- Career highlights: Won Sydney, Mildura and Nottingham titles; 2011 Wimbledon girls champion
- Lives: Springfield
- Coaches: Jim Joyce and Jason Stoltenberg