World number one Ashleigh Barty said her 12-week-old niece helped put her Australian Open semi-final defeat into perspective on Thursday as she delivered her post-match press conference holding the baby girl.
American 14th seed Sofia Kenin silenced Rod Laver Arena with a surprise 7-6 (8⁄6), 7-5 win over the home favourite in fierce Melbourne heat.
It ended Australian hopes of a first homegrown women’s champion since Chris O’Neil in 1978, and Barty’s bid to win her home Grand Slam for the first time.
And in an unexpected twist, the 23-year-old sat down in front of the world’s media with baby Olivia cooing on her lap.
“This is what life is all about, it’s amazing,” said the Australian, gazing fondly down at the baby.
“Perspective is a beautiful thing. Life is a beautiful thing.
“She brought a smile to my face as soon as I came off the court. I got to give her a hug.”
Barty, who had been the strong favourite having defeated the 21-year-old Kenin in four of their five previous meetings, said that it was “a match where I didn’t feel super-comfortable”.
“I felt like my first plan wasn’t working. I couldn’t execute the way that I wanted. I tried to go to B and C,” said the down-to-earth Australian, who will remain world number one despite losing.
“I think I had to dig and find a way. I mean, I’m two points away from winning that in straight sets, which is disappointing.”
Barty, who held set points in each set, conceded that she “didn’t play the biggest points well enough to be able to win”.
The French Open champion hopes to rectify that next time.
“I’ve learnt so much over the last month, I’ve learnt from all of the experiences that I’ve kind of been thrown into,” she said, baby Olivia sitting contentedly in front of the cameras.
“I’ve loved every minute and I won’t wait a year to put those into practice.
“I’ll put those into practice next week, the next time I walk on court, the next time I kind of wake up in the morning.”