With the sudden retirement of champion Ash Barty earlier this year, Australian women's tennis is entering a new era.
Tennis without Ash Barty is indeed taking some time to get used to.
Likewise, our Aussie girls are adjusting to not having Barty around on tour. Her presence amongst younger players in both the male and female ranks will be greatly missed. Barty helped evolve tennis in general, and like all our great Australian champions was immersed in ensuring she acted as a role model.
Of course, we also farewelled 2011, US Open winner Sam Stosur at this year’s Australian Open in singles. Barty’s departure leaves a significant gap in Australian tennis, as will Stosur’s total departure in her last year of doubles.
Consequently, Barty’s success has created distance between her and our fellow Aussie counterparts.
Nonetheless, with her swift retirement, has opened the way for fans to get to know more of the Aussies who are to fill the shoes of Barty.
Australia has a strong crop of young female players who are on the rise along with a sprinkling of experienced names.
So, let's take a look at where our players stand and also get a snapshot of the youngsters coming through.
Obviously, the first name that comes to mind is our now top-ranked women’s singles player, Ajla Tomljanović.
In recent weeks, Tomljanović has been able to match her career-high ranking of world No.38 but has since dropped back to world No.41 in the most recent WTA singles rankings. This equal career-high ranking, however, comes after Tomljanović advanced to the quarter-finals at the Istanbul Open in April.
As the only Australian inside the women’s top 100 Tomljanović has been able to string together some stronger form which could see her continuing to build on her ranking.
Maddison Inglis and Daria Saville currently sit outside the top 100 but both have put together some positive performances so far this season.
Inglis, who is currently ranked world No.127 impressed onlookers at the Australian Open this year with a string of wins where she fought her way into the third round.
Her first-round victory in Melbourne over Canadian Annie Fernandez set the tone for her admirable performances with this year’s Australian Open also being her best result at a grand slam.
With a career-high ranking of No.112, the next step for Inglis will be trying to break into the top 100.
Likewise, Daria Saville has also come off a busy period.
The last two years have been frustrating with persistent injuries troubling the 28-year-old, but Saville has once again hit her gears.
Saville’s Indian Wells and Miami Open campaigns proved that she is once again on the rise and looking to build up some continuity.
Speaking with The First Serve in March at Indian Wells, Saville conceded that she was going to take a new approach with her game this year.
“I think for me I’m going to try and re-established my identity as a fighter, and that’s kind of how I win matches with attitude,” said Saville.
That fighting attitude was on show when she reached the quarterfinals at the Miami Open while at the Indian Wells Masters, she was forced to retire in her round of 16 match, but even so, her ranking jumped up 160 places.
Her resurgence this year has created a sense of excitement amongst tennis fans who would love to see her back at her absolute best.
But the excitement doesn’t end there!
Australian juniors are also making their mark with Charlotte Kempenaers-Pocz and Taylah Preston impressing onlookers in recent months.
The pair are two of Australia’s highest-ranked female juniors ranked inside the top 50. They’ll both be competing at the upcoming junior grand slams in Paris and at Wimbledon.
One player who has stepped up from the juniors to the ITF level is 17-year-old Talia Gibson, who recently made her first singles final at 15K level.
Meanwhile, Storm Sanders has also kept busy, jumping up 16 places in the WTA’s latest rankings.
Along with Sanders, Olivia Gadecki has also proven to be a promising prospect.
The 19-year-old from Queensland last year played doubles for Australia in the Billie Jean King Cup and in 2021 rose steadily through the ranks and in the space of 10 months went from having no ranking to the mid-200s.
Tennis without Ash Barty is looking different, and we are already starting to see the changing of the guard.
With two grand slams around the corner, Australia will have an eye on these players who are trying to create their own storylines in this new era of Australian tennis.