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Aussies out to show there's life after Ash

3 minute read

The French Open is the first grand slam since Ash Barty took her leave of tennis, but the show must go on for her Australian colleagues in Paris.

ASHLEIGH BARTY.
ASHLEIGH BARTY. Picture: Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Ash Barty's beautiful slice has long gone, the guillotine racquet exchanged for a lazy Sunday afternoon nine-iron, and all Australian tennis has are the fond memories of their departed queen.

But the show must go on - even if the leading lady is an impossible act to follow.

So at Roland Garros, scene of Barty's coming of age with her 2019 triumph, the rest of her support cast will attempt to prove there is Aussie tennis life after Ash when the 126th French Open begins on Sunday.

Good luck to them.

If you take Barty and the indomitable Sam Stosur out of the equation - she'll be here once again for the 17th time at the age of 38 for some doubles fare - the French Open has been a red dirt wasteland for Australian singles players over the last decade.

They're the only two Australians in the last 10 editions to get beyond the third round. No man has managed the feat.

The stats make Barty's Paris triumph such an outlier and stand as a reminder of what the game will be missing in her absence.

"Obviously, Ash going was a massive loss, but she's earned the right to do whatever she wants with her career," Thanasi Kokkinakis told AAP.

"She's done kind of everything there is to do in the sport, and if she's happy retiring, she can make that call - and good on her, retire on top!"

But where does her absence leave the domestic game? Asked whether he felt Australian tennis had much to feel enthusiastic about at the moment, Kokkinakis admitted: "I'm not too sure.

"We've got some depth at the moment - I don't know too much about our juniors and how they're coming through, but people develop at different times so I don't think we need to worry about that.

"But, sure, I think the more players we can get up there, the better now."

There's no point in Barty's old colleagues lamenting her absence. It's a selfish sport and one that changes swiftly. 'Ash who?' may well be the refrain soon if Iga Swiatek carries on her merry, mesmerising path.

"Well, we've got to move on and keep going," said de Minaur.

As the country's top-ranked player, back in the top 20 next week and enjoying the best clay-court season of his admirable career, all he can do, he says, is concentrate on being as good as he can be.

As for taking over as the Australian tennis figurehead and how he deals with it, he shrugged typically: "Look, I just put my head down and try to do my job.

"I try to improve both on a personal level and on a tennis level every day and that's all I can ask of myself."

Even if de Minaur may never be able to emulate Barty's achievements on the court - he's bound to never stop trying - he's every bit as admirable as an Australian sporting figurehead.

"I've been doing this for a while now. I've had a couple of years where I just try to do everything I can to put Australia on the map, whether it's year round on tour, or representing my country in the Davis Cup and ATP Cup," said de Minaur.

"It's quite an honour, and so I try to do my best every time."

Australian sport may have lost the diamond who won, won and then won again, but it should cherish the Demon who tries, tries and then tries some more.

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