As Ash Barty claimed her maiden Australian Open title on Saturday, former world No. 1 Serena Williams likely had a knowing smile on her face.
While Barty has replaced Williams at the top of women’s tennis in recent years, it was the American who played a telling role in ensuring the Aussie got there.
Barty famously walked away from tennis in 2014 to pursue a cricket career but after 15 months was eventually lured back to the court.
Among the reasons for her return, an encouraging text from Williams seems like it may have played some part.
“Ash was in a restaurant I think and Serena sent her a message saying ‘You are too good a player to retire . . . you have to come back,’” Barty’s first coach, Jim Joyce, told The Courier Mail earlier this week.
The two players faced off for the first time at the Australian Open in 2014 and though Williams won the match 6-2, 6-1, Barty clearly left an impression on the American.
Since then, the duo have only played each other on one other occasion with Barty giving Williams a scare at the French Open in 2018 before the Aussie was defeated 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Williams, now 40, has been unable to take part in the past two Grand Slam events, and her last major victory now dates to the 2017 Australian Open.