When Ash Barty retired for a second time in 2022 after winning the Australian Open singles title, the third major of her career, it caught many of us by surprise as it appeared she was destined to rack up many more slams in the years to come.
No one could begrudge Ash as she pointed out how she had achieved her dreams and had “given everything to the sport”.
Possibly what wasn’t realised at the time of her retirement though was just how gaping the hole was that she was leaving behind.
18 months on from her announcement and there is not a single Australian in double figures in the WTA top 100.
When the official weekly rankings were released on Monday, Kim Birrell hit the 100 mark exactly for the first time in her career. In the world of live rankings which change daily she is at 104 today.
Ajla Tomljanovic and Daria Saville have both been dealing with injury issues over the past 12 months and would ordinarily be locks inside the top 100, so hopefully they can bounce back to where they belong.
The reality though is there appears to be a lack of depth in our female ranks which potentially highlights a deeper issue.
Compare that to the Aussie men, who despite last year’s Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios being virtually absent from the tour this year, have an incredible nine players inside the world’s top 100.
So the question is why the discrepancy?
The First Serve Tennis’ Junior Journey Podcast co-host and High-Performance Coach, Michael Logarzo believes that there are a combination of factors which are contributing.
“The difference at the moment between the guys and girls is that there are guys who are really high led by De Minaur who push the guys that are below to reach that standard.”
“It almost becomes a wave once a couple can do it then the others can do it.”
“A lot of it comes down to belief and whether they truly believe that they are top 100 players.”
“We seem to always have a lot (of females) between 100-150 and then it’s about getting them to take the next step.
“If Kim (Birrell) can keep going, then some of the others can get more belief (as a result).”
According to Logarzo there are also issues with the development process which is holding some players back from reaching their potential.
“Are we doing enough to develop the qualities required to be consistent top 100 players?”
“Building the skillset, qualities, physicality and mindset to get further down the road.”
“It’s really easy to criticise TA, they are an easy target but I think as coaches around the country are we holding ourselves accountable enough to the standards required to develop these sorts of players?”
“Talent-wise we have the players.
“Why can’t we develop a Coco Gauff?
“A lot of it comes down to culture and mindset.
“Maybe we need to be a bit tougher on some of them as well and even coaches need to work together with one another better.
“Whilst it is an individual sport, I think it’s really important that the girls work together as a team because they thrive in that environment.
“They can then feed off one another whereas they can get lost on their own, especially when they are away from home.”
Michael also wonders whether the players are “ruthless enough” in their own investment in order to maximise their talent.
“If you want people to invest in you then how much are you willing to invest in yourself?
“I love what Kim has done, she’s gone out and got a coach and is doing what a high-level player would do.
“You’ve also got to do it your way and make the right decisions.
“You’ve got to do it with the understanding that it might not work out but you have to do it anyway. You can’t be half in.
“I don’t think that mindset is there enough and I don’t think we create enough of that mindset.”
Logarzo also stresses the importance of having players at the pointy end of the rankings to encourage the next generation to pick up a racket.
“You aspire to what you think is attainable.”
“When we had Ash, it made a hell of a lot of a difference because they could see her going deep into a tournament.”
“The more you can see the higher level, the more motivating it is for you.”
You can hear the Junior Journey podcast with Michael Logarzo via our podcast page at www.thefirstserve.com.au or however you subscribe to The First Serve (Apple, Google, Spotify etc)