Our tennis golden girl was already a winner before a point was played
SHE IS the darling of the seniors set across the country, and Ash Barty is successfully continuing her quest to join Margaret Court as the first Australian woman since 1973 to win two Grand Slam tennis titles in a single season.
While her push to reclaim the world No.1 ranking was given a scare in the second round of the US Open today, the young Aussie bounced back from a set point scare in the second set to defeat unseeded American Lauren Davis 6-2, 7-6.
In the third round, Barty will take on the winner of Maria Sakkari and Shuai Peng whose match will continue tomorrow after being suspended by rain.
Earlier, the World No. 2 and No.2 seed at Flushing Meadows opened with a tough first round victory over Kazakh Zarina Diyas, who she had also beaten in their only previous encounter.
That was six long years ago in Kuala Lumpur in 2013, and a lot has happened for "our Ash" since then.
In late 2014 she took an extended break from tennis as she had lost her joy for the sport, finding more pleasure and less pressure in just being another face in the Brisbane Heat women's cricket team.
Rejuvenated, she rejoined the circuit in early 2016 and as if to underline her renewed love for the game, won her first tournament back.
Her remarkable return culminated in a French Open victory earlier this year and progression to World No.1, a position she held for seven weeks before Japan's Naomi Osaka reclaimed the mantle and subsequently the No.1 seeding for this tournament she won last year.
Despite her new-found fame and fortune, Ash Barty goes into this week's tournament with her feet firmly planted on the ground.
You can take the girl out of Ipswich, but you can't take Ipswich out of the girl.
While others are complaining about the prospect of stinking hot weather on the noisy New York courts, where rowdy fans and roaring jets compete for top decibels, Ash has calmly stated it will be no different to a Brisbane summer.
And so the conditions for her opener on the Arthur Ashe Stadium centre court were of little concern to her. She focuses only on things she can control.
It summarises her refreshing attitude, not shared by many others on the Australian tennis landscape, that she's lucky to be doing what she's doing and she plans on making every post a winner.
Ash says she's feeling great after an encouraging run in Cincinnati where she was a beaten semi-finalist when a win would have taken her back to the No.1 spot and given her the No.1 seeding in New York.
Que sera, sera she says, choosing instead to focus on the positives.
It highlights the fact that despite her recent run of success, deep down nothing much has changed for her.
"It's been an incredible ride over the last three and a half years but the last 12 months in particular has been incredible," she said in the lead-up to the US Open.
"I'm very lucky to have a great team around me that bring me back down to earth. Off the court we don't talk tennis. We enjoy each other's company and have really good banter and then when it's time to work, we come to the courts and we try to do the best that we can everyday and that's all that we can really ask."
Doing her best and being satisfied with whatever that brings is a big part of her healthy mantra.
Asked for advice for teenage players rising through the ranks and struggling with the mental side of the game, Ash reflected on her experiences.
"I had my own battles with mental health and it was important for me to begin the conversation and start talking about it," she said.
"That started with people that I trust, and I think that that's probably the most important thing to know - that there are a lot of people in the world that struggle with it.
"It's not just you, and you can go out there and talk to people that you trust. It's about beginning to learn to enjoy everything."
Win or lose in New York, it's guaranteed this young Australian woman we'd all be proud to claim as our own daughter or granddaughter will represent her country with grace and dignity.
And for that, she was a winner before a point was even played.