Ashleigh Barty was spotted warming up in the bowels of Melbourne Park with a cricket bat in hand rather than a tennis racket before her Australian Open semi-final, which she won in just 62 minutes.
Barty is aiming to become the first Australian grand slam singles champion on home soil since Chris O’Neill in 1978 but appeared to have no conception of the weight of history on her shoulders as she prepared for her clash with Madison Keys.
With a cricket bat in hand, her bag for stumps and fiancé Garry Kissick keeping wicket, Barty batted away her coach Craig Tyzzer’s bowling before bowling a spell of her own in a corridor underneath the 1573 Arena.
Barty is not a cricketing amateur; the world No 1 took a break from professional tennis at the age of 18 to “experience life as a normal teenaged girl” but ended up playing a season of Women’s Big Bash League for the Brisbane Heat, featuring in nine games overall before returning to tennis .
She subsequently won her first title a year later and began her run to world No 1, a position she has now occupied for a total of 112 weeks.
The 25-year-old has won two grand slam titles too but neither on home soil and now finds herself one step away from doing so after beating Madison Keys 6-1 6-3 in a one-sided semi-final.
Barty broke the unseeded American’s serve in the opening game of the match and added an insurance break a few minutes later to lead 4-1 having won every single point on her own serve.
She did have to save a break point in the sixth game of the match but if there were any nerves, they only briefly showed.
Keys was playing in her fifth grand slam semi-final but was the overwhelming underdog and her challenge lasted just 62 minutes as Barty closed out the match at the first time of asking.
And she admitted afterwards that her pre-match routine had involved some tennis, namely watching wheelchair tennis star and 15-time grand slam champion Dylan Alcott play the final match of his career.
“We were watching his match today [when] I was with my physio but now before coming out and when he was saying his acceptance speech we were both crying,” Barty admitted.
“I was like, ‘I need to get out and get ready to get a game on but I just wanted to watch Dylan and for him to be able to share that moment with so many people here…
“The way that he and the Australian Open have worked together to open up the opportunities for more disabled people all around the world to play tennis and to have a go is just exceptional. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Barty will play her seventh match of the tournament on Saturday (8am UK time) against either Iga Swiatek or Danielle Collins.