Ash Barty struck some trouble on the way to securing French Open trophy.
Ash Barty struck some trouble on the way to securing French Open trophy.

The French Open speech Barty’s coach binned

TENNIS coaches have the best - if sometimes most uncomfortable - seats in the Grand Slam house.

Always visible, they are judged by success and failure of their players.

In Craig Tyzzer's case, his stocks rise and fall on the racquet of Ashleigh Barty.

Tyzzer was voted WTA coach of the year by his peers last year. The best in the world.

As prescient as the brilliant Melbourne mentor is, he had neither the faculty - nor ego - to anticipate the accolade.

But in Paris last year, perched behind the baseline on Court Suzanne Lenglen, Tyzzer showed just how far ahead of the pack - and the play - he is.

Expressionless, the Victorian watched as Barty's 5-0 semi-final romp against Amanda Anisimova suddenly dissolved into a wretched scoreline as she trailed by a set and 0-3.

Ash Barty presents Craig Tyzzer the 2019 WTA Coach of The Year Award. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty Images.
Ash Barty presents Craig Tyzzer the 2019 WTA Coach of The Year Award. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty Images.

To most, it was a case of match over as Barty, according to Tyzzer, froze with the paralysing realisation of where she was - on the cusp of a Roland Garros final.

Tyzzer is no quitter, but he admits he started workshopping a grim post-match debriefing for Barty, the essence of which was "bad luck, this loss might take some time to get over".

He never got to deliver it.

Out of nowhere, he spotted something. So did Chris Evert.

"I could physically see her change on court and then the best part about from 0-3 in the second set, when she got out of the chair, there was a definite physical presence that she was different," Tyzzer said.

"From that point on, I felt she was going to win the match.

"I felt it was a massive turning point. I actually at one point started to construct how I was going to talk to Ash if she lost this match.

"I felt, boy, it's a massive setback and it might take a while to get over. Something like that.

"I felt it was huge and then to turn it and then get through it and the result that happened was a significant step in just her believing that she was capable of doing those things."

The core of the turnaround informs Barty's tennis intelligence and resilience and Evert's admiration for her.

"That turning point in her career came at the French Open when she was down a set and 3-0 against Amanda Anisimova - and she pulled it out," Evert said.

"Mentally she turned the corner and I think she believes now that she can win anything."

Barty is, by nature, perfectionist, competitor and strategist - an amalgam that has catapulted her to the top of the world rankings.

In Paris last June, that combination rescued Barty, setting in motion a chain of events - and results - that enabled the Queenslander to complete the most improbable transition from career oblivion to greatness.

While Tyzzer, manager Nikki Craig and mentor Ben Crowe - not to mention Barty's family and partner Garry Kissick - often feel powerless, Barty excels at problem-solving on the run.

"That's sometimes the most frustrating part of coaching," Tyzzer says of the feeling of helplessness which occasionally sweeps over him.

"You can often see things before they do and have often worked on and know," he said.

"But I think the thing we've tried to instil in Ash is that she can figure things out and not be completely dependent on who's there and she can work things out.

"Often she has done that in quite a few matches and I'm spending less and less time going out there (on court) and talking to her in matches because she is actually figuring out that stuff a lot earlier.

Chris Evert hands the French Open trophy to Ash Barty.
Chris Evert hands the French Open trophy to Ash Barty.

"But, yeah, it's actually a lot easier watching from the sidelines. Like, I can play all her shots better and do all the right things!

"That's the thing with coaches. The expectations are high but you've got to keep that all in perspective when they're playing matches.

"The good thing with Ash is she knows how to compete and that makes a big difference at this level."

Keeping things on an even keel has been Barty's signature since returning to the tour in 2016.

Her grasp of reality delivers a simplicity at odds with a willingness to be vulnerable in public view, a mindset gleaned from Crowe.

"I am looking forward to next week," Barty said ahead of a first-round clash with Lesia Tsurenko.

"There is nothing better than getting to play a grand slam at home in front of Aussie fans.

"As Aussie players we are so lucky to have this tournament in our backyard.

"I have no expectations. My team and I keep things as normal as possible and focus on the match ahead.

"I prepare as best I can and compete every time I get on court - that's all I can do. What will be, will be."

Barty will team with close friend Julia Georges, of Germany, in doubles, a format she relishes as both a honing tool and pressure relief.

Ashleigh Barty (right) working with her coach Craig Tyzzer.
Ashleigh Barty (right) working with her coach Craig Tyzzer.

Tyzzer is aware of how much Barty demands of herself.

The next fortnight will be no different.

"She puts a lot of pressure on herself anyway, she has high expectations," he said.

"She's a bit of a perfectionist, so we don't really need to add any more to what's already there.

"I know everyone else talks about it, but we keep it pretty simple within her team in what we expect from her and what we expect from ourselves.

"I think the only changes are it's difficult for her to walk down the street now, it's difficult to get anywhere.

"So there are those added things to remind you but it hasn't really changed what we do when we're preparing for matches and playing.

"We know it's about on the court, on that day, performing your best and competing."

Familiar now with the mechanics of landing a major, Barty and Tyzzer know precisely what is required.

"It's a day-to-day proposition and to win a slam, you've got to be there for two weeks, pretty solid, and she knows what it takes," Tyzzer said.

"It's super difficult, you've got to have a little bit of luck, you've got to be playing well.

"But we're excited about it. We're excited about being in Australia and playing the Open, looking forward to getting out there.

"If Ash can get her teeth into it. Obviously the first week is important to get a feel for the event and get some matches under her belt to work her way through it.

"Then hopefully she can push deep but that's largely going to be up to who she plays, how she plays on the day.

"We all know that, but she's going to put her best foot forward and really give a red-hot go, that's for sure."

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