(Australian Associated Press)
It may seem impossible, but Ash Barty’s trusted mentor is ready to unleash an even superior version of the world No.1 than before her 11-month layoff from competitive tennis.
Declaring a mentally refreshed and physically stronger Barty a genuine chance of winning next month’s Australian Open despite her near year-long hiatus, coach Craig Tyzzer says the pair used her time out to improve all areas of the 2019 French Open champion’s game.
And while conceding the lack of tournament play remains the “biggest unknown” for Barty’s Open prospects, Tyzzer couldn’t be happier with the 24-year-old’s preparation.
“She’s hit some pretty good form. We’ve played a lot of match play in the last few weeks so she’s pretty ready to play. I’m really happy with how she’s striking the ball,” Tyzzer told AAP on Wednesday.
In addition to playing practice matches with fellow Australians Lizette Cabrera, Kim Birrell and Sam Stosur, Tyzzer has pitted Barty against several men’s stars “just to give her some variety and to put her in some uncomfortable spots”.
In Melbourne, Barty has regularly taken on respected coach Jake Eames, the hitting partner of former world No.1 and 2018 Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki.
“Matches are completely different. No matter what you do, I don’t think you can replicate practice matches,” Tyzzer said.
“That’s probably been the hardest thing for her. That’s why some of the boys have tried to push her and put her in some tough situations.”
Barty last week said she felt she was getting better and better every year.
And Tyzzer says not even Barty’s decision not to play last year during the coronavirus pandemic has halted her development.
As well as working on her topspin backhand, Tyzzer revealed the world No.1 was benefiting from an astute equipment change.
“We changed the gut in her racquet through the break as well because she just had so much time,” he said.
“We did try it once before and we just didn’t have enough time and she couldn’t find the feel with it.
“But it’s added a bit more weight to her ball, so there’s a bit more power coming out of her racquet.
“It’s also better on her arm. She’s had some issues with her arm and the gut is a bit softer in that sense.
“So I feel like we’ve done some things that have helped her improve her game and time will tell if we’ve got those right.”
Barty, who will play an exhibition against world No.2 Simona Halep in Adelaide on Friday night, will be top seed at the Open for the second straight year.
And Tyzzer says the 2020 semi-finalist has every intention of contending for the trophy.
“She’s planning on trying to get through every match she plays and win everything she plays. That’s the ultimate goal,” he said.
“But the trouble is you’re going to have someone up the other end that wants the same thing.
“The difficulty of doing that over the two-week period is hard and if you strike someone who is in better form than you on the day and plays a better match, then that is what it is.
“(But) she wants to obviously be in the best form she can be and if you can string that together for two weeks, then you’re certainly a good chance and hopefully that’s what occurs for her at the AO.”