Barty's party to start at home in Brisbane

Dec 31, 2017 - 4:31 AM Fed Cup captain Alicia Molik is backing Ashleigh Barty's supreme conditioning and on-court smarts to help the new Australian No.1 cope with the intense summer spotlight.

Barty launches her 2018 season against Ukraine's world No.42 Lesia Tsurenko in the first round of the Brisbane International on Monday, having risen an incredible 308 spots up the rankings since last New Year's Eve.

Molik, one of only three home-grown stars in the past 30 years to make the Australian Open women's quarter-finals, has no doubts the world No.17 is ready to handle the heat.

"I love the way she plays. She always plays exciting," Molik said.

"She has great hands and she has a great mind too to pick her opponent to pieces. She knows where their weaknesses are.

"She also has the variety to expose them and a definite area where Ash has gotten better is her physicality on court.

"It doesn't trouble her if she has to engage in a long, difficult, physically exhausting rally. She's prepared to do that now.

"Going back a few years ago, she'd want to get out of those rallies. She'd want to make something happen.

"Now she's more prepared to use all of her flair and power and spin as well. That's her priority.

"When she needs to dig deep, she's happy to do it."

Molik always had confidence in Barty's ability to crack the top-20 elite, but is still surprised how meteoric the 21-year-old's rise has been in 2017.

The former world No.8 is convinced Barty's decision to start from scratch as an unranked player upon her return to tennis 18 months ago following a stint playing cricket has been instrumental in her rapid ascent.

"Ash came back the hard way," Molik said.

"She lost her ranking. She didn't protect her ranking. So before she even started on her comeback, mentally she was prepared. It was what she wanted.

"She was prepared to work hard for it. She played low-level challengers, she played a lot of doubles, started off playing a lot of Pro Tour events and $25,000 events, so she eased her way and I think it was a smart way to go.

"But coming back from not having a ranking is very, very different to having a protected ranking and picking and choosing your tournaments."

Molik says managing her time and off-court demands over the summer will be key for Barty.

"Everyone's going to want a piece of her," she said.

"So it's about having the tools and being equipped to say no when you need to and keeping your eye on the cherry, so to speak, and I have no question that Ash will do that."

Source: AAP

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