Newly crowned John Newcombe medallist Ash Barty has her sights set on the top 10 rankings of world tennis after her career-best 2017 season.
Barty charged towards her highest ranking of 17 on the back of several impressive performances, most notably her first WTA title in Kuala Lumpur.
She also made the final at Birmingham and Wuhan and was a semi-finalist at the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai.
The 21-year-old described her John Newcombe Medal win on Monday night as the “cherry on top” of a “phenomenal” year.
Barty’s assault on the top 10 will begin at the Brisbane International and will step up a gear at the n Open in mid-January.
“It was nice that I had nothing [in terms of rankings] to defend for the whole year so it’s a very different year next year and a very different feel but we’re excited and ready to go,” Barty said.
“I love playing the n Open, I love playing in the n summer and I can’t wait to get out in front of everyone and hopefully play my best.
“We’re very lucky to be a grand-slam nation and get the support that we do and it’s an exciting start to the year for us being able to spend the first couple of months in .”
The furthest she has progressed at the n Open is the third round.
Barty will also play in the Sydney International, which kicks off on January 7, and it was at the 2016 edition of the event where she realised she wanted to return to tennis after a 17-month stint with cricket.
“I didn’t really close any doors, I left it all open and however I was feeling was determining what I was doing … hitting with Casey [Dellacqua] at the Sydney International last year – the penny dropped for me,” she said. “It was exciting to know straight away that I wanted to come back out and play.”
Barty, who claimed the huge scalps of Venus Williams, Garbine Muguruza, Jelena Ostapenko, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Angelique Kerber, Johanna Konta, Agnieszka Radwanska, Karolina Pliskova and Eugenie Bouchard during 2017, said she was surprised at how successful her return to tennis had been.
“We didn’t have too many disappointing weeks and we had some really good results spread out through the year and my ranking kept going up and up,” she said.
“I felt super comfortable on the court the whole year, really. I think the match in Brisbane against Angie [Kerber] set the tone for me and it was a bit of a standout match even though we didn’t come away with a win.
“Towards the end of the year we were able to really get some good tennis, especially in Wuhan – we had a really good week there, probably the best of my career – and we were able to keep the ball rolling the whole year.
“I just have a really good group of people around me. That was probably the most important thing coming back was making sure that I had people that I trust the most around me.”
To be one of only two female winners of the John Newcombe Medal, along with Sam Stosur, is a great honour for Barty.
“Sammy’s obviously been a fantastic role model for so many years for us, and in my eyes Sam will always be No.1, she’ll always set the standard and has set the standard for so many years,” Barty said.
“It’s very nice to be able to share the medal with so many of the legends that have held it in the past as well.”