By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, April 28, 2021
World No. 1 Ash Barty rides an 11-match red clay winning streak into the Mutua Madrid Open and says the secret to her success on the slow surface is simple.
Photo credit: Porsche Tennis Grand Prix
Ash Barty arrived in Madrid’s Magic Box exposing illusion behind her clay-court success.
The world No. 1 mastered the art of the comeback in Stuttgart rallying from a set down three times in a row knocking off Top 10 opponents Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka to collect her second career clay title and a cool new Porsche at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix on Sunday.
The top-seeded Aussie rides an 11-match red clay winning streak into the Mutua Madrid Open and says the secret to her success on the slow surface is simple: There is no secret. It’s a willingness to work on the physical and mental side of the game and the humility to learn from loss that has empowered the 2019 Roland Garros champion to this streak. Barty has not lost on red clay since bowing to Kristina Mladenovic on the red clay of the 2019 Rome.
“I’m still continuing to learn every day from both my experiences and the processes that I have put in place with my team and my mentor over the past few years, is to try and continue to get stronger, to get stronger mentally, to get stronger physically and as a tennis player, as well,” Barty told the media in Madrid. “So I think, you know, it’s just a part of a game for me. It’s like any other muscle. I try and work on it as best that I can and make it stronger and stronger.”
Thirteen-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal famously said clay success requires players to “accept suffering.” Barty believes facing the demands of digging out of the dirt have led to growth in her game and life.
“So I think you only learn from some pretty rough experiences, as well. When you get kicked down, you’ve got to get back up again,” Barty said. “I think that’s when you learn the most. It’s important to experience that as well and take the learnings from the tough moments. I think that, you know, your greatest growth does come from your darkest times. I think it’s important to be able to recognize that and learn from it.”
The Miami Open champion has proven to be a shrewd mid-match adjuster. Barty owns a 20-3 record overall, including a 9-1 mark in three-setters this season. Fresh off celebrating her 25th birthday and 11th career title last week, Barty has elevated her game against the elite riding a 10-match winning streak against Top 10 players.
The 5’5″ Aussie’s impeccable accuracy on serve, her all-court acumen and ability to shift the spins and heights of her shots wielding both the low slice backhand and heavier topspin forehand make Barty an unsettling opponent. She’s also a familiar face to first-round foe Shelby Rogers.
The pair will square off for the fourth time this season in Madrid. Barty has won all four of their prior meetings, but knows the challenge Rogers represent. On the green clay of Roger’s hometown of Charleston earlier this month, Barty battled to a 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4 victory.
“It seems this year we’re going to be playing once a month. Yeah, it’s strange playing someone so regularly, and I think sometimes that’s how the draws go,” Barty said. “You can play someone time and time again or you can never see them on your side of the draw for years.
“So it’s always an exceptionally tough match against Shelby. She’s proven that she knows how to play on a clay court, has had success at Roland Garros before, and it’s always a challenge. So I have to go out there, have to be very sharp from the start, and I have to try and bring the match back on my terms as quickly and as regularly as possible.”
Should Barty prevail, she would be one round closer to a potential Madrid round of 16 clash with reigning Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek.