Ashleigh Barty takes part in a training session during day eight of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Monday, January 27, 2020. (AAP Image/Natasha Morello) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Ashleigh Barty takes part in a training session during day eight of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Monday, January 27, 2020. (AAP Image/Natasha Morello) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

It’s Ash’s right to say nothing but is it right?

When Ashleigh Barty decides it's time to hang up the racquet, she should consider professional poker.

When it comes to keeping her cards close to her chest, she's in a class of her own.

For the past few months reporters have been trying their level best to engage Barty on the issues of the day with a spectacular lack of success.

She has a message that she wants to get across to young people and, like the champion tennis player she is, won't go outside the lines.

Which is fair enough. It's a very important message, and she delivers it beautifully - believe in yourself, work hard, don't let anyone tell you that you can't make it and anything is possible.

And she is living, breathing proof that it is true.

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Barty has refused to use her position as a platform. Photo: AAP Image/Natasha Morello
Barty has refused to use her position as a platform. Photo: AAP Image/Natasha Morello

 

Unfortunately for Barty there will always be those who want more, those with agendas who feel she is perfectly positioned to promote them - and should.

Take the Australia Day "issue" for instance.

After her win over Alison Riske on Sunday, the newly anointed Young Australian of the Year was asked by TV commentator Jim Courier about the significance of playing on January 26.

Her answer was along the lines of, "yeah, it's great, thanks" but at the post-match media conference a reporter asked if she had found the question "awkward".

The inference, of course, was that as an indigenous Australian she should feel compromised by accepting an award on so-called "Invasion Day".

Her answer was wonderfully eloquent and suitably evasive.

 

The eyes of Australia are on our World No.1. Photo: AAP Image/Lukas Coch
The eyes of Australia are on our World No.1. Photo: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

 

 

"It's not up to me to decide what day Australia Day is on," she said.

"I'm staying true to my values. I am extremely proud of my heritage. That's going to remain the same every single day of every single year for the rest of my life. It doesn't really matter what day it is.

"I'm a proud, indigenous woman. I'm a proud Australian. For me, it doesn't matter what day of the year it is. I'm going to stay true to my values all throughout the year, all throughout my life.

"Every single day I want to be kind, I want to be honest, I want to be humble, I want to give the best that I can. That's all that matters for me."

 

 

Do Barty’s fans want her to speak out on issues? Photo: Jack Thomas/Getty Images
Do Barty’s fans want her to speak out on issues? Photo: Jack Thomas/Getty Images

 

But it is not all that matters for others. You can rest assured that right now there will be those who see Barty's response as a wasted opportunity - a chance to put across the Invasion Day case to a worldwide audience gone begging.

Just as it was a few weeks ago at the Brisbane International when other female players - all Grand Slam winners - were speaking up about the "disrespect" of being shunted on to outer courts while the men's ATP Cup monopolised the main Pat Rafter Arena.

With a competing WTA Cup being mooted as a solution to the imbroglio, Barty was asked by a journalist for her thoughts.

"I'll think about it if and when it happens," she said, shutting down the conversation.

To which the likes of Maria Sharapova, Sam Stosur and Sloane Stephens might say testily, "Gee thanks Ash. We stuck our necks out for the rights of female players, where were you?".

Barty and her many supporters could well argue that it is not her job to speak for any cause other than her own.

Others could counter that as the world No.1 women's player and Young Australian of the Year, it is.

Either way, it is a fine line that Barty has to walk. She only had to look at the on-court presentation to Margaret Court to see the pitfalls of speaking out.

Tennis Australia's handling of Court's attendance at this year's Australian Open - in which they honoured her career but distanced themselves from her controversial Christian fundamentalist views - has divided public opinion.

Court's supporters argue strongly that she should have the right to say anything.

Barty's would argue just as strongly that she has the right to say nothing.