World number one Ashleigh Barty controversially equals Serena Williams record

Serena Williams, Ash Barty

Ashleigh Barty’s 2021 season has come to an end but the Australian is still guaranteed to finish the year as the world number one.

The 25-year-old revealed on Saturday she would not take part in the year-ending WTA Finals in Guadalajara, Mexico and said her focus was preparing for the Australian summer and a home Grand Slam in Melbourne next February.

But despite cutting short her season, Barty has still accumulated enough ranking points to remain in top spot, having won five titles, including Wimbledon, this year.

Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka is the Australian’s closest challenger, though she remains more than 2000 points adrift of the two-time major winner.

Sabalenka’s defeat in the quarter-finals of the Kremlin Cup means Barty will finish the year as the top-ranked woman in the world for the third consecutive calendar year –– a feat only match by Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Serena Williams.



Yet, while the Aussie has won trophies on all surfaces this year and is clearly the most consistent player on the tour right now, many have suggested she does deserve to be held in the same regard as these other tennis icons.

Some have claimed the Wimbledon winner shouldn’t have been number one three years in a row because the rankings were frozen during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Barty chose to sit out the majority of the 2020 season and didn’t defend her Roland-Garros title from 2019 but managed to stay on top by virtue of the new protected ranking system.

And fans have suggested her record-equalling achievement should therefore not stand, given she would likely have been surpassed by the likes of Naomi Osaka –– who won two Grand Slams while the rankings were frozen.

As one person wrote on Twitter: “Ash [Barty] is wonderful –– as a player and person. Happy that she’s number one. Big congrats to her. But the chaos the pandemic has caused these past couple of years does mean her year ends have to be asterisked.”

Another echoed these thoughts, stressing: “2020 needs an asterix. Race position around 20 that year. But the other two are well deserved.”

The Australian last played at the US Open, where she was knocked out in the third round to Shelby Rogers.

But after a gruelling summer, both mentally and physically, which has also included the Olympics, Barty has taken the decision to opt against travelling next year.

While she would likely have been the favourite to win the Tour Finals, the world number one has already won the title before, back in 2019.

And given the Australian Open is the tournament the Aussie aspires to win the most, this chance to recover and relax will give her a strong chance of challenging in Melbourne next year.

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