French Open champion and world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty has added another accolade to her name, taking out ‘The Don’ Award for being the Australian sportsperson who through their performance and example has most inspired the nation over the past 12 months.
“I can’t quite believe it to be honest,” Barty said on receiving the award at the Sport Australia Hall of Fame night of nights on Thursday.
“When I look at my fellow nominees this year and people who have won ‘The Don’ Award before, I feel honoured to be a part of such an inspiring and talented group of Australians.”
The Ipswich sensation broke through for her first major championship win at the French Open, the first Australian woman to win that tournament since Margaret Court AO MBE 46 years earlier.
In winning her next tournament, the Birmingham Classic, Barty rose to the world No. 1 ranking, only the second Australian woman to do so since Evonne Goolagong-Cawley AC MBE in 1976.
In reflecting on her 2019, Barty said whilst she’s the one on the court, it’s a team effort that resulted in her rise to the top of the world rankings.
“I am so proud of my team and I for what we have achieved. We have worked hard, experienced some amazing highs and lows and enjoyed every bit of the journey,” she said.
“The perfect way for me to finish 2019 would be with a win representing Australia in the Fed Cup, then I’ll be ready to celebrate.”
Ashleigh Barty during her professional cricket days before returning to tennis. Photo by Michael Dodge – CA/Cricket Australia/Getty Images.
Twenty-three-year-old Barty joined Goolagong-Cawley, John Newcombe AO OBE, Pat Rafter and Lleyton Hewitt AM becoming only the fifth Australian to have reached this pinnacle since the rankings were introduced in 1973, and the first since Hewitt in 2003.
Barty, who took a break from tennis for more than a year before returning three years ago with a ranking in the 600s, earned worldwide acclamation for this phenomenal turnaround and her humility, graciousness, poise and determination in both victory and defeat, characteristics highly valued by Sir Donald Bradman, after whom the award is named.
Barty said she holds all those values very highly and it adds to the significance of winning ‘The Don’.
“My parents taught me that being a good person is the most important thing in life, I try and live by that every day,” Barty said.
“When I started playing tennis, my first coach Jim Joyce had four ‘rules’ – be a nice person, respect people and be respected, have fun and if you can play tennis that’s a bonus – these are still with me today.
:At the end of the day tennis is a game and it is meant to be fun. I try to walk away with a smile even after a tough day.”
In winning the 2019 ‘The Don’, Barty becomes the second tennis player to take home the coveted award, joining Pat Rafter who won in 2001.
In a star-studded field of nominees, Barty headed the field that included fellow tennis grand slam champion Dylan Alcott OAM, 2018 NRL premiership hero Cooper Cronk, three-time Tour de France stage winner Caleb Ewan, 2018 world surfing champion Stephanie Gilmore, Bathurst 1000 2018 winner Craig Lowndes OAM, Ashes winners Ellyse Perry and Tim Paine, and swimming world champion Ariarne Titmus.