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Wimbledon top seed Barty remembers dark days

Tennis

Ashleigh Barty has recalled her career-threatening mental health battle as she enters Friday’s Wimbledon draw as Australia’s first women’s top seed in 46 years.

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Barty is taking her lofty status in her stride after the All England Club afforded the newly crowned world No.1 one of the most prestigious honours in tennis.

Adding further lustre to her phenomenal season, Barty is the first Australian woman to headline the Wimbledon draw since Margaret Court in 1973.

“It’s a completely new situation,” said the French Open champion.

It was less than five years ago that Barty quit tennis while struggling to cope with the suffocating pressure of being touted the sport’s next big thing after winning the Wimbledon junior crown at just 15.

Depressingly homesick, Barty packed it in after a first-round US Open defeat.

“We went through ebbs and flows in that year in 2014,” Barty said.

“I’m not going to go into details of how I felt and what I had to go through, but there was a point when I think I knew I had to stop and, when I made the decision, it was easy.

“Everyone is different, everyone is unique. I can’t sit here and tell people how they should figure out their way through their life. It’s their decision.

“For me, it was just being aware of my mental health. Having a discussion with people was the best thing that came out of it.”

Barty said she wouldn’t be where she is right now had she not taken time out and played professional cricket.

The last time any Australian was top seed at a major, it all ended in despair with Lleyton Hewitt becoming the first defending champion to lose in the opening round at Wimbledon in the professional era after falling to serving monster Ivo Karlovic in 2003.

Eighteen-times major champion Chris Evert claimed it would take a “Herculean effort” for Barty to extend her 12-match winning streak to the 19 needed to capture tennis’s greatest prize,

Little wonder the 23-year-old admits to being unsure how she’ll handle the pressure of favouritism.

“I don’t know, we’ll have to wait and see,” Barty said.

“I feel like I’m playing good tennis but it’s such an open field, if I’m being brutally honest.

“For me, there are so many potential new situations at Wimbledon. It’s essential I go out to prepare the best I can.”

German titleholder Angelique Kerber has been seeded fifth this year, with seven-times Wimbledon champion Serena Williams the 11th seed.

Alex de Minaur, at No.25, is the only Australian men’s seed this year.

Nick Kyrgios is unseeded for the first time since shocking then-world No.1 Rafael Nadal on debut to reach the quarter-finals as a teenager in 2014.

Kyrgios has fallen to No.43 in the world rankings, leaving him vulnerable at Friday’s draw.

World No.1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic is the men’s top seed ahead of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

-AAP

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