Jelena Dokic: Barty can feed off the hype at Aus Open
ONE-time Australian star Jelena Dokic Dokic expects Ash Barty to feed off the hype at Melbourne Park, potentially catapulting her to an Australian Open singles crown.
Dokic, now commentating for broadcaster Channel 9, will watch with interest as the 23-year-old Queenslander aims to break Australia’s 42-year home title drought.
Fresh from becoming the country’s first ever year-ending women’s world No.1, Barty clinched her maiden Australian WTA tournament win in Adelaide on Saturday.
The pressure of expectation will be immense over the next fortnight, but Barty not only has the game, but also the mental strength to collect a second grand slam win after her success in Paris last year.
“She’s been doing such a great job after winning (at) Roland Garros, becoming world no.1 and dealing with the pressure,” Dokic said.
“She needs to focus on the tennis, what she needs to do in her matches and (to beat) her opponents
“But, embrace it a little bit ... that there is that pressure there.
“The crowd, you can use that to your advantage.
“That’s what I did. That’s why I didn’t really struggle playing at home, playing in Australia. In fact, I loved it.
“Everyone reacts differently.
“Sam Stosur has talked about it publicly. That she absolutely struggles playing in Australia with that pressure. She always wanted to win here so badly.
“For Ash, I think she will be able to use the crowd to her advantage.
“She’s just been handling everything so well. She’s so humble.
“I don’t think she’ll have too many problems embracing the whole experience. She is someone who can handle it.”
Chris O’Neill was the last Australian woman to claim the crown Down Under in 1978.
Falling short, Barty progressed to the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park in 2019, matching Dokic’s own best result in 2009.
“The Australian Open I think was a breakthrough for her last year,” Dokic said.
“She beat (Maria) Sharapova (in the fourth round). That was the breakthrough that she needed.”
Dokic has kept a close eye on Barty ever since she won the Wimbledon juniors title at the age of 15 in 2011.
She was the first Australian girl to win any junior grand slam singles title since Dokic at the 1998 US Open.
Even then her “great game” shone out.
“It’s different to a lot of other girls,” Dokic said.
“Great serve, really good slice, great volleys which especially at that age not a lot of girls possessed that type of game. It’s very baseline orientated with ground strokes.
“She had the whole package, and was such a smart player.
“We always knew she had a great game. That she could become a great player.
“I’m not surprised that she’s won a grand slam, that she’s world no.1.
“It’s a unique game (and) women struggle to handle it.
“She’s now got the best slice in world.”
Dokic praised Barty for making the “mature” decision to take 18 months out from the game at the end of 2014.
“She did struggle with that adjustment (on the tour),” Dokic said. “Travelling so much and decided to take break, which, looking at it now, that was a great decision.
“Doing that so early in your career, realising you had to do it, (it was) such a mature decision. She re-evaluated what she wanted to do.”
Barty is on the second line of betting for the women’s title with Ladbrokes at $8, with Serena Williams, still such an imposing figure on the world scene, the $5 favourite after her win in Auckland last week.
She’s striving to win a record-equalling 24th major title to sit alongside Margaret Court.
“Serena deciding to play a few extra matches (in the lead-up) shows she really wants to win the Australian Open,” Dokic said. “She usually comes in cold, doesn’t play a lot.
“She’s getting that confidence before she even gets into a grand slam... she’s going to be dangerous.
“But, there’s so many players who can do well,” Dokic added, namely defending champion Naomi Osaka.
“There’s another five or six girls who can potentially do well.”