'Ipswich ideal preparation for Barty'
THE sun was shining but it was too wet for tennis on the George Alder Tennis Centre clay courts.
So Tennis Australia coach Jason Stoltenberg, in Ipswich to monitor Ipswich prodigy Ashleigh Barty in the City of Ipswich Tennis International, did what any Aussie bloke might - he kicked a footy around.
It was Stoltenberg's first visit to the centre on Tuesday, while Barty was returning to familiar turf following breakthrough professional tournament wins in Sydney and Mildura last month.
"She's doing well," Stoltenberg said of Springfield-based Barty.
"I think everyone likes to play at home."
While a third tournament victory in a month would be a wonderful achievement, Stoltenberg insisted winning wasn't the most important thing at this stage of Barty's development.
"It is more important for her age, 15, that she's still trying to develop the right habits to become a professional player," he said.
"Points and things like that are a good bonus.
"At this level you can be doing the right things and still not getting points on the board."
So win or lose at the City of Ipswich Tennis International, Barty will gain more valuable exposure to the ranks of senior international tennis, where Barty is still only wetting her feet.
She will head to Europe in May with her eyes on the clay-court season, where last year she reached the semi-finals of the girls' French Open.
In that regard the Ipswich tournament is the ideal preparation for Barty and many of her competitors.
"It's good tennis for young Aussies to be playing," Stoltenberg said.
"It's the real deal.
"They're playing for points.
"There are a lot of good players and Ash is just one of them."
Stoltenberg had plenty of kind words to say about the Leichhardt tennis facility.
"It's fantastic," the top-level coach said.
"It's a great facility for the players to hone their skills (on clay).
"We haven't had a lot in the past.
"It's a lovely facility and a good preparation for Europe."