Ash Barty is trying to keep it real as the WTA No. 1 returns to the US Open for the first time since 2019, with the low-key Australian curious to experience Grand Slam tennis with a full-on crowd again.
Organisers in New York are rolling the dice big-time as they allow all comers through the gates of Flushing Meadows – no masks required.
The come-one, come-all approach is designed to create ambience for players as well as pad out the bank balance of an event which played behind closed doors a year ago to the tune of millions in box office losses.
Top-seed Barty could care less as the all-American hype machine spring into action prior to Monday’s start of play.
The Queenslander will continue to work in her own quiet way while trying to tune out the noise.
“This week is going to be exciting – it’s got fans. That’s going to bring a lot of energy to this tournament.
“I can’t wait to get started.”
But she added: “It doesn’t change a lot to what I do typically at a Slam. I’m not one to get out and about too much.
“We spend our time here at the courts doing what we need to do. Once back at the hotel, a lot of the time it’s pretty quiet for me. I’ll wander town to a cafe and get a coffee, and that’s about it.”
Barty got a taste of full-house fans in attendance at last week’s Cincinnati event, which she won over Swiss Jil Teichmann.
“Cincinnati was probably the first time we had crowds that felt that close to the courts. Even at the practice court, it was pretty unreal to have kids and people.
“That was really cool. I think New York is going to be like that just with a few more bodies moving around. But it’s certainly going to be a lot of fun.”
Barty skipped the closed-door Open in 2020 due to the still-permanent Australian situation which still keeps citizens from leaving and foreigners from arriving – all to little avail with both Sydney and Melbourne locked down with Western Australia and Queensland isolated by choice as the COVID-19 Delta variant spreads.