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Saturday, November 26, 2022

‘Incredible experience’: Barty ticks off lifelong goal

Ash Barty will return to the tour next week but spent recent days in Central Australia in her role as Tennis Australia’s First Nations ambassador.

Australian Open champion Ash Barty will return to the tour at Indian Wells next week but spent recent days learning more about her Indigenous roots.

The world No.1, a proud Ngarigo woman, visited Uluru and Alice Springs in her role as Tennis Australia’s First Nations ambassador.

National Parks representatives educated Barty about the sacred sites and she connected with members of the Muṯitjulu School and community from Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara country in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

Barty hit with students from various schools as part of the Racquets and Red Dust program on a Hot Shots court, with the iconic Uluru serving as a spectacular backdrop for one of the sessions.

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“It’s really hard to put into words, just because it’s a feeling,” Barty said.

“When you actually go to Uluru for the first time like I did; it was just an incredible experience for me to understand how much of a spiritual connection Uluru has for so many communities.

“But also as a child, as an Aboriginal girl growing up, it’s the heartbeat of our nation … being able to experience that first-hand is something I always wanted to do.”

Racquets and Red Dust, run by Tennis NT, aims to create sustainable tennis pathways for First Nations people to experience and try tennis, with a priority placed on positive health, education and social outcomes.

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Tennis NT’s Indigenous programs lead Anzac Leidig and inclusion and diversity manager Beth Caird traveled thousands of kilometers in the past 18 months to visit more than 20 communities and 1500 First Nations people.

The National Indigenous Tennis Carnival will be held in Darwin in August.

Barty is set to join Belgian great Justine Henin in equal-seventh place for the total number of weeks (117) spent at No.1 in the WTA rankings.

She is also only three weeks from matching 18-time grand slam singles champion Chris Evert for the fourth-longest streak of consecutive weeks at the top.

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