Ashleigh Barty backs Ajla Tomljanovic over Australian Open accusation: ‘She’s doing a great job’

Ashleigh Barty sees no reason why Ajla Tomljanovic can’t continue her incredible Grand Slam form and challenge for next year’s Australian Open.

With Barty’s retirement in March this year, Tomljanovic took over as Australia’s No. 1 and made steady progress to reach the quarterfinals at Wimbledon and the US Open.

She finished the year a career-high No. 33 in the WTA rankings and means she’s on the verge of being seeded for her home Grand Slam next year.

Barty has been impressed with the 29-year-old’s rise in recent years.

“She’s had an outstanding year and deserves to be ranked higher than she is at the moment,” the three-time Grand Slam winner told the Australian Associated Press.

“But you can’t do anything about that situation. It is who it is and what has kept it really good is that she has accepted it and is getting better and better.

“A couple of Grand Slam quarter-finalists this year, he’s played outstanding tennis and is someone Australians can be very proud of.”

Barty retired just weeks after winning to become the first Australian woman in 44 years to win the Australian Open and locals are hoping to see a new player rise to the challenge at Melbourne Park in 2023.

When asked if Tomljanovic can compete for a major, Barty replied, “He already is.”

Tomljanovic beat former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova during her run to the round of 16 at Wimbledon, while also taking a set against eventual champion Elena Rybakina in the quarterfinals. At the US Open she ended 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams’ run with a three-set win in the third round.

Former world number 1 Barty continued: “And that’s the genuine feeling among the players.

“Certainly when I played Ajla, I knew I had to be at my absolute best or she was going to completely overwhelm me.

“And he has that respect from everyone. She has earned that respect for a number of years by showing up every single day.

“He suffered terrible injuries. He’s had hiccups and hits throughout his career and now – fingers crossed, he’s touching the wood – that’s sort of settled down.

“It can always get carried away very quickly as an athlete, but she has had an absolutely incredible year and I sincerely hope she has a great Australian summer so that everyone can celebrate with her.

“He’s doing a great job.”

READ MORE: Ashleigh Barty beats Nick Kyrgios for best Australian award: ‘Tennis has given me all my dreams, and so much more’

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