Cash for Ash: Brand Barty just got bigger
ASH Barty was already Queensland's multimillion-dollar baby even before setting foot on the clay of Roland-Garros last night for her history-making first Grand Slam final.
Now, sports marketing experts say Brand Barty's value is set to skyrocket on the back of her stunning French Open performance - not that the humble kid from Ipswich would be boasting about it.
She had already amassed nearly $11 million in prizemoney before the French Open final, and earns millions more from sponsors including Jaguar, Vegemite and sports streaming service Kayo.
Griffith University sports management lecturer Jason Doyle said that was precisely why the Queenslander was already hugely marketable.
Her success at Roland-Garros would only increase her value as an athlete, Dr Doyle said.
He said Barty's wholesome, down-to-earth image - in stark contrast to that of male tennis brats Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic - made her a sponsor's dream.
"She's got that real girl-next-door image, and her indigenous background adds an extra element to her story," he said.
"It's hard to find someone who doesn't have a soft spot for Ash.
"She's very likeable, hugely marketable and her brand is only going to be more valuable after the French Open."
Barty's parents Robert and Josie Barty always believed their daughter's rise to the pinnacle of tennis was only a matter of time.
"Ash has always had incredible natural talent and when she started playing with Jim Joyce as a young girl we knew she had something special," Mr Barty said.
"Over the last three years Ash has worked hard to get to this position and deserves every success that comes her way."
But Mr Barty said that any success on the court could not match the pride the family had in the way she had reached the top.
"Josie, Sara, Ali and I are so proud of Ash," he said.
"Her tennis achievements are obvious but we are most proud of the way she conducts herself, in tennis and in life," he said.
"The way Ash treats her family, her friends, her team and anyone around her is a reflection of what a wonderful girl she is."
Tennis Queensland chief executive officer Mark Handley - who watched the French Open final at a "Barty Pillow Party" staged by the Ipswich City Council - said Barty was becoming a sporting role model in the mould of Queensland tennis greats Pat Rafter and Sam Stosur.
"She's now inspiring a new generation of tennis players and will probably be responsible for the next Queensland champion," Mr Handly said.
"From an early age, you knew she had a gift.
"Her demeanour, her professionalism, her mental strength... it was just going to be a matter of time before she realised her potential.
"It was always going to be a matter of 'when', not 'if' for Ash. She's doing what she was born to do."
Barty's first coach and lifelong mentor Jim Joyce saw the young Queenslander's potential when she came to him aged just five for a lesson.
"Her hand-eye co-ordination was amazing, but it was her focus and concentration for that age (that stood out)," a proud Joyce recalled yesterday.
"She was equal to any of the nine and 10-year-olds as far as that goes.
"I just said to her parents at the end of the lesson, bring her back next week.
"She was outstanding… she just picked up things so quickly."
Joyce said Barty's parents were excellent golfers, and Barty would have made a fantastic one too.
"We talk about her cricket skills, but you should see her on a golf course," he said, referring to Barty's sabbatical from tennis several years ago to play cricket for the Brisbane Heat.
"She'd picked up an old wooden racquet and started hitting against a wall.
"She didn't want to play team games - her sisters were playing netball - she just wanted to play tennis.
"Her parents spoke to an uncle or aunty that had a tennis background and they suggested to come and see me. That was obviously a great day for me."
Joyce said Barty had not been the most enthusiastic trainer as a youngster but her fitness had improved "out of sight" and her mental strength was now "amazing".
"Ash has always had that ability, but she's gone on with it now," he said.