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Ashleigh Barty shrugs off added pressure of being Grand Slam champion

Ashleigh Barty shrugs off added pressure of being Grand Slam champion
© Reuters
Barty was a finalist in Birmingham two years ago.

Ashleigh Barty vowed to enjoy her new-found status as a grand slam champion rather than worry about the pressure of expectation as she heads into her favourite part of the season.

The Australian has climbed to number two in the world rankings after surprisingly winning her first slam singles titles on clay at the French Open last Saturday.

Barty had always been considered at her most dangerous on grass, having won the Wimbledon junior title aged 15, and she will return to action on the surface at the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham next week.

The 23-year-old had her first hit on Thursday after spending time with her family, whose journey to the UK from Australia unfortunately did not allow them to make it to Paris, playing golf at The Belfry and watching the cricket and women's football World Cups.

"It's a unique situation, it's an incredible situation," said Barty, who defeated Marketa Vondrousova in the final at Roland Garros.

"We've worked so hard to try to put ourselves into these positions and now that it's here it's just about enjoying it, it really is. I may never get the opportunity again. I'll continue to try to work and do everything as well as I possibly can to put myself in another situation.

"It's been an incredible journey over the last three years for myself and my coach. I'm just excited to be able to try to use all of the experiences I've gained and the things I went through in Paris to continue to try to move forward.

"I feel good. We've had a few days to relax and step away from the court. I jumped back on the court yesterday and got back into training. We're ready to go again."

Barty's success in Paris meant she opted against defending her title in Nottingham this week and she will hope to go one better in Birmingham than two years ago, when she reached the final before losing to Petra Kvitova.

Kvitova, the winner for the past two years, withdrew this week as she continues to recover from an arm injury, but Edgbaston hosts one of the strongest fields in its history, with the world's top three of Naomi Osaka, Barty and Karolina Pliskova all in action.

Barty said: "I love the courts here. Hopefully it stays dry first and foremost. I know that it's going to be a bit of a challenge changing surfaces so quickly. I'm not going to play my best tennis every day, but I can guarantee we'll be doing all the right things to give myself the best chance.

"It's a fresh start, it's a clean slate. A new season jumping on the grass. This is the time of the year I love playing tennis."

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Andy Murray pictured during his Australian Open first round defeat to Roberto Bautista Agut on January 14, 2019
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Wednesday's key events

· Team GB have dominated the men's coxless fours in recent Olympics, winning on each of the last five occasions, but this year they face some stiff competition. They are one of four rowing medal contenders for Great Britain today (2.10am)

· Katie Ledecky and Ariarne Titmus face off again in the women's 200m freestyle final, with the latter having already come out on top in the 400m event (2.41am)
· Team GB's Abbie Wood is among the medal contenders in the women's 200m individual medley final, while teammate Alicia Wilson will also take part. USA's Kate Douglass was the fastest qualifier, while world and Olympic record holder Katinka Hosszu is also involved (3.45am)
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· Team GB were by far the fastest qualifiers for the men's 4x200m freestyle relay final and will therefore be favourites for another gold in the pool (4.26am)

· Team GB take on New Zealand in the first men's semi-final, having been beaten by reigning champions Fiji but then come from behind to overcome USA on day two (3am)
· The sevens gold medal match takes place at Tokyo Stadium, with the winner of Great Britain vs. New Zealand taking on either Argentina or Fiji (10am)

· Joe Fraser and James Hall compete for Team GB in the men's all-around final (11.15am-2.10pm)

· Anna Shackley will take part in the women's road time trial (from 3.30am)
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· Jack Laugher bids to retain his men's 3m synchro diving title alongside new partner Daniel Goodfellow (7am)

· Charlotte Dujardin will look to add to her already legendary status with a third successive Olympic individual dressage title (9.30am-1.25pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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