Ash Barty says health must come first amid tennis saga
Ash Barty has vowed to do Aussies proud as she prepares to take to the court for the first time in more than a year.
And the world No.1 has called for some perspective amid growing unrest among tennis stars stuck in Melbourne's strict quarantine.
"We are so lucky in Australia to have a home grand slam; the support of the Australian fans means the world to me and I always want to do well here,'' Barty said.
"I understand this year will be different in many respects but I hope I can do the local fans proud.
"The circumstances around this year's event are definitely challenging and I understand the frustration of all the players who have had to quarantine, but keeping Melburnians safe and making sure we put health first has to be the priority."
Barty, 24, has been based in Melbourne for weeks and has the advantage of not having to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks like players arriving from overseas.
She has this week been spotted training at the Xavier College courts, alongside other Australian players, including John Millman and Dylan Alcott.
"I used to live in Melbourne, it's like a second home to me,'' Barty said.
"The lead-up has certainly been different and more complex than other years but I try and stay focused on me and my preparation with my team, I can't control too much outside of that.
"I really missed competing last year so I am looking forward to getting back out there in the next few weeks. I am ready to play."
After skipping the grand slams last year and not defending her French Open title, Barty has kept a low profile outside of attending the footy in Queensland last year to watch her beloved Tigers.
She said she had learned to appreciate the little things and felt grateful for all she had, including time with her family, "working" on her golf game.
"Family and health are the most important things,'' Barty, who has struck a sponsorship deal with Gillette Venus, said.
She was hopeful of representing Australia at the Olympics in Japan this year, which remain under a cloud.
"The first goal for me is to get back out on court here in Australia and get back to my best,'' she said.
"My coach (Craig Tyzzer) and I will work through our schedule for the coming months but right now the focus is definitely on Australia and doing well here. Representing Australia in an Olympic Games has always been a dream of mine. I hope it goes ahead but there are obviously a lot of challenges ahead for the organisers.
"If it's safe to do so then I would love to be there."
Originally published as Ash: Victorians' health must come first amid tennis saga