A poem about Ashleigh Barty written the day after she finally defeated Petra Kvitová

Ash Barty, Australian Open trophy, 29 Jan 2022, William West, AFP

Update 23 March 2022: Congratulations to Ash Barty on her decision to retire! What a sensible person!

Now from 27 March 2019, when this poem was written: This is one of my most matter of fact “matter of fact” poems, and might be a thought of as a celebration both of Barty’s victory (in March 2019) and of this form of poetry. A few links to more poems of this type may be found below, along with updates regarding subsequent Barty triumphs. In addition, in January 2020, in the midst of the Australian Open, I prepared Spanish and French versions of the original prose poem. Renewed congratulations to Ms. Barty after her winning the Australian Open in 2022.

A poem about Ashleigh Barty written the day after she finally defeated Petra Kvitová

We are fans of the tennis player Ash Barty because
when she was a very young tennis star, she took two years off from the tour
to try “to experience life as a normal teenaged girl and have some normal experiences.”

And because she is only five feet five inches tall,
and in the world of competitive sports,
where size (large or very large) is everything
(and small or normal-size people are often excluded),
Barty competes and competes.

When, in the first-set tiebreaker, she was down 5 to 2,
to a taller and higher-ranked opponent,
she didn’t flinch. She won six of the next seven points.
And the set, and then the match.

And when it was over she didn’t get carried away.
She said, “I’m really pleased.”
And, “Petra’s someone I respect most on tour.
She’s an absolute champion.
It’s always a real pleasure to play her.”

Life is never this simple and sensible,
But it’s nice when it appears to be.


It may come to seem that I am obsessed, and less about Ash Barty than about the often overlooked role that innate physical attributes play in athletes’ success (or lack thereof). I read somewhere that Barty, for her part, enjoys an unusually “live” arm, fast-twitch muscle fibers, unusual capacity for rotation. And recently, re-reading John McPhee’s 1965 profile of the basketball player Bill Bradley (A Sense of Where You Are), I came across these bits:

He has been six feet five since he was fifteen years old, so he had most of his high-school years in which to develop his coordination, and it is now exceptional for a tall man. . . .

With both eyes open and looking straight ahead, Bradley sees a hundred and ninety-five degrees on the horizontal and about seventy degrees straight down, or about fifteen and five degrees more, respectively, than what is officially considered perfection. Most surprising, however, is what he can see above him. Focused horizontally, the typical perfect eye, according to the chart, can see about forty-seven degrees upward. Bradley can see seventy degrees upward.

The quotations in the poem are, in order of appearance, from:

  • 30 March 2019 update

    Ashleigh Barty, with trophy and streamers, 2019 Miami Open (photo from wtatennis dot com)Ash Barty wins the Miami Open, the biggest singles win of her career. At the award ceremony a TV commentator noted that at 5’5″ Barty was the shortest woman among the top 25 women players in the world. Please note, however, that in the United States, for example, the average adult woman is a little under 5 feet 4 inches tall. A typical Barty comment, this from the ceremony: “You don’t get these opportunities every single day so it was important for me to continue to try and do the right things and enjoy the moment as well.”

    Ash Barty, image from AAP (Fox Sports) online story, 6 June 20196 June 2019 update

    Today Barty won her French Open quarterfinals match, but since she was beating an American and, on another court, an American was beating a foreigner . . . The TV switched away to that match. Of course international sports are only interesting when Americans are playing and winning (??!!??) . . . and TV does its best to assure us that this is ever the case. An astute TV watcher—an oxymoron—might note a certain lack of suspense, at least when it comes to matches rebroadcast from time zones well beyond the continental United States. If they are being rebroadcast, it is because the American or the Americans won.

    But Ash . . . Today, in the games the TV allowed me to watch, her opponent was playing quite well, but Ash had, among other things, a greater understanding of what was happening and going to happen, so she was a hair quicker to the ball and a hair more effective with her shots. (Or, as she put it: “I felt like I was in control. I got the balls I wanted, and I was able to put the balls in difficult positions”.

    She is now the highest-seeded woman player left in the tournament, but told the press:

    [T]he other three girls in the semi-finals are playing incredible tennis. . . . Even though they don’t have a seeding next to their name necessarily doesn’t mean they’re any less of a player.



    Un poema en prosa sobre Ashleigh Barty escrito el día después de que finalmente derrotó a Petra Kvitová [en 2019]

    Somos fans del tenista Ash Barty porque
    cuando era una estrella del tenis muy joven, se tomó dos años de descanso de la gira
    para intentar “experimentar la vida como una adolescente normal y tener algunas experiencias normales”.

    Y porque ella sólo mide 165 centimetros de altura,
    y en el mundo de los deportes de competición, donde el tamaño (grande o muy grande) es todo
    (y a menudo se excluye a las personas de tamaño pequeño o normal),
    Barty compite y compite.

    Cuando, en el primer juego de desempate, estaba abajo 5 a 2,
    a un oponente más alto y de mayor rango,
    no se acobardó. Ganó seis de los siguientes siete puntos.
    Y el set, y luego el partido.

    Y cuando terminó, no se dejó llevar.
    Dijo: “Estoy muy contenta”.
    Y, “Petra es alguien a quien respeto más en la gira.
    Es una campeona absoluta.
    Siempre es un verdadero placer jugar con ella”.

    La vida nunca es tan simple y sensata,
    Pero es agradable cuando parece serlo.


    Un poème en prose sur Ashleigh Barty écrit le lendemain de sa victoire sur Petra Kvitová [en 2019]

    Nous sommes fans du joueur de tennis Ash Barty parce que
    quand elle était une très jeune star du tennis, elle a pris deux ans de congé de la tournée
    d’essayer « de vivre la vie d’une adolescente normale et d’avoir des expériences normales ».

    Et parce qu’elle ne mesure que 165 centimètres,
    et dans le monde du sport de compétition, où la taille (grande ou très grande) est tout
    (et les personnes de petite taille ou de taille normale sont souvent exclues),
    Barty ne s’abandonne jamais.

    Lorsque, dans le premier jeu décisif, elle était en bas 5 à 2,
    à un adversaire plus grand et de rang supérieur,
    elle n’a pas bronché. Elle a remporté six des sept points suivants.
    Et le set, et puis le match.

    Et quand c’était fini, elle ne s’est pas laissée emporter.
    Elle a dit : « Je suis vraiment contente. »
    Et, « Petra est quelqu’un que je respecte le plus en la circuit.
    C’est une championne absolue.
    C’est toujours un vrai plaisir de jouer avec elle ».

    La vie n’est jamais aussi simple et sensée,
    Mais c’est bien quand elle semble l’être.

    28 January 2020 update

    Ashleigh Barty reaches maiden Australian Open semi-final: World No 1 [again] beats Czech Petra Kvitová 7-6 (8-6), 6-2

    Ash Barty, January 2020, Australian Open (photo by Dave HuntAAP)


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