NIT has been following the fortunes of two outstanding individuals this year.
Soli Bailey, who qualified for the World Surf League Championship Tour (CT) in style at Pipeline in Hawaii towards the end of 2018. And Ash Barty, who some believe is on track to win Australia’s first tennis grand slam since Sam Stosur in 2011.
The two athletes are in their early 20s and already have ‘comeback’ stories. Bailey spent five years on the qualifying tour without moving up the rankings much, until he changed coach and attitude in 2018 to break through to the CT this season.
Now he’s surfing among the top 32 surfers in the world.
Ash Barty left tennis to play Big Bash League cricket for a season. That brief stint in the white ball game helped her realise her passion lies with the furry green ball.
Here are some important updates on these world-beating Indigenous Australians.
The 23-year-old had to adjust his game, along with the rest of the field, when the Quicksilver Pro moved to the back-up location of Duranbah Beach.
The hard-to-predict shore break provided skatepark like ramps for the surfers to get into the air.
Bailey competed with the best of them, but couldn’t make it past the seeding round, finishing 17th.
“I didn’t get the result I wanted but I competed as well as I could have – that kept me in a pretty good place and I’m happy and excited to be competing in the Rip Curl Pro Bells Bells,” Mr Bailey said after the event.
At the second stop at Bells Beach in Victoria, Bailey showed his ability to carve rail to rail.
He dropped the highest heat totals in his first two heats, scoring above 13 for his two-wave total both times.
The third heat provided fewer opportunities and he dropped out after losing to Seth Moniz and Kolohe Andino, finishing 17th again.
The competition now moves to Indonesia where Bailey will take on fellow Aussie Owen Wright and Brazilian Yago Dora in the first round.
He continues to wear the Aboriginal flag on his shoulder on his competition jersey.
“As much as I was super excited to represent Australia and what we stand for, it was also an opportunity for me to show some love, and show a bit of my culture,” Mr Bailey said.
The praise is flying in as fast as the awards for Ash Barty, who is in the form of her career following her win at the Miami Open earlier this year.
Her latest achievement was to lead Australia to victory over Belarus in their Fed Cup semi-final in Brisbane late last month.
Barty, alongside Sam Stosur, won their doubles match to clinch the five-game tie 3-2 at Pat Rafter arena. It’s the first time since 1993 that Australia has featured in the Fed Cup final and a win over France in November would break a 45-year drought.
NIT has previously reported how former player Todd Woodbridge tipped Barty as a strong chance of making it to World No. 1.
Her coach, Craig Tyzzer, has also pitched in – saying her results are flowing because of her countless hours of hard work.
Barty, however, is not focused on the praise. Instead, she’s getting ready for Roland-Garros, where she’s a favourite to win the French Open starting at the end of this month.
“It’s very kind of them (to say I could be No.1). But there are extra steps and extra levels I have to reach to be able to do that. I’m confident in my team and the process we’ve put in place. I’m doing the right thing and my ranking is going in the right direction,” Ms Barty said.
By Keiran Deck