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Ashleigh Barty not feeling pressure ahead of Australian Open

Ashleigh Barty not feeling pressure ahead of Australian Open
© Reuters
There is intense focus on the world number one as she bids to win a second grand slam title.

Ashleigh Barty joked she is sick of seeing her own face as she prepares to take top billing at the Australian Open.

No Australian woman has won the singles title in Melbourne since Chris O'Neil in 1978, almost 20 years before Barty was born.

But, as the world number one and French Open champion, Barty will be all too aware that fans will flock to Melbourne Park more in expectation than hope.

Ashleigh Barty is the reigning Australian Open champion
Ashleigh Barty is the current world number one and reigning French Open champion (Dita Alangkara/AP)

There is certainly no doubt who the star of the show is from a home perspective, with Barty's image adorning posters and billboards across the city.

She said: "My face is everywhere a little bit, isn't it? I'm a bit sick of it to be honest.

"There's no extra pressure. I don't read the papers. I don't look into any more than I need to. I'm here with my team trying to do the best that we can.

"It's amazing to have so much support and so much love from the Australian public. I've really felt that in an exceptional way over the last 12 months. It's been incredible."

A typically down-to-earth Aussie, Barty seems as well-placed as anyone to deal with the intense spotlight, and she is determined to enjoy rather than endure the next fortnight.

"It's been obviously an exciting 12 months since the last time I sat here," she said.

"It's been a really nice couple of weeks leading up to the Australian Open. Obviously coming back to Melbourne, I have really good memories from last year.

"It's important to embrace it, enjoy everything that comes along with it. You don't get to play an Australian Open every single week. You don't get to play a grand slam every single week."

After beginning the season by losing her opening match at the Brisbane International, Barty won her first tour-level title on Australian soil on Saturday with victory at the WTA event in Adelaide.

"Obviously it's the perfect preparation," she said. "But, regardless of whether I won the title or not last week, I feel like I'm well prepared.

"I'm happy, I'm healthy. I'm coming into the first grand slam of the year with a smile on my face. That's all I can ask of myself."

Barty got a taste of what she can expect this fortnight last year, when she made it to the quarter-finals before losing to Petra Kvitova.

She opens her campaign on Monday against Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko in the first match of the night session.

"I have so many good memories from playing on Rod Laver Arena," she said. "It's a beautiful court. I'm excited to get out there tomorrow night. Every experience I've had over the last 12 months will hopefully help me."

Defending champion Naomi Osaka and title favourite Serena Williams will also be in action on a blockbuster opening day in the women's draw while Coco Gauff will try to repeat her Wimbledon victory over Venus Williams.

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