Ashleigh Barty has had a season to remember.
The 25-year-old has won five titles, including victories on every surface and secured her second major triumph at Wimbledon.
It means the Australian has cemented her place a the top of the world rankings, while rivals Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep, who started the year ranked second and third respectively, have both fallen down the standings.
Despite missing a large part of last year to remain in Australia during the pandemic, the WTA’s protected ranking system allowed Barty to maintain the top spot heading into 2021.
And since then, the two-time Grand Slam champion has opened up a nearly 2000 point lead over Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka in second place.
The Aussie star is preparing to enter a landmark 100th week as number one, with only seven other women – Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Serena Williams, Chris Evert, Martina Hingis, Monica Seles and Justin Henin –– having spent longer there since the rankings were introduced in 1976.
Graf and Willams hold the record for most straight weeks at the top (186) and former Australian Fed Cup captain, David Taylor, believes Barty will be there for a while yet.
“She’s so well-rounded,” he told AAP. “So tactically aware. Serve, forehand. There’s not a lot of weaknesses in Ash’s tennis and, if you look at the great No 1s, they’re all well-rounded like that.”
“In this time where the women’s tour has a lot of different grand slam winners, she’s definitely brought some consistency to the number one spot.”
Taylor also trained former world number ones, Hingis and Ana Ivanovic. Hingis is the youngest female major winner of all time but the world-renowned coach believes Barty is even better than the Swiss star.
She’s like an upgraded version [of Hingis]. Still to this day, of the people I’ve coached, Martina was the most amazing. How she could walk off the court and dissect a match with the clarity of a coach.
“And the only other person I’ve ever taught who had first-hand knowledge of that was when you talk to Ash about tennis. She understands tennis. She’s by far the best tactician on the women’s tour. She’s so good at that.”
Hingis is not the only Swiss icon who has drawn comparisons with Barty. The Australian has also been likened to 20-time Grand Slam winner, Roger Federer, because of her tactical astuteness and all-around play.
“You look at Roger, he can tactically win with such an array of tactics and having coached on the WTA Tour for so long, you’re often left with quite a very narrow set of tactics for most of your players on there,” Taylor said.
“With Ash, she’s dangerous on all surfaces, which she’s obviously already proven, and she’s won the two biggest Grand Slams on the most contrasting surfaces so she’s got a lot of ways to win matches. She definitely has a lot of massive problem-solving abilities and tactically can put girls in such challenging situations because of the breadth in her game.”
This season will conclude in November with the WTA Tour Finals in Guadalajara, Mexico. Barty is the defending champion, but it’s unclear at this stage whether she’ll attempt to defend her title.
Regardless, the 25-year-old is almost certain to end the year at the top of the rankings and with a home Slam to come early next year, the Australian will likely be the favourite to add a third major to her trophy cabinet.