ASHLEIGH Barty has capped a stunning season by securing the Newcombe Medal as Australian tennis' best-performed player in 2017.
The Queenslander rose more than 254 places to finish the season at No 17 - as the nation's top-ranked player - in a phenomenal return to the sport.
The 21-year-old took an 18-month break from tennis in 2014 and played cricket for Brisbane Heat.
After resuming, primarily in doubles last year, the junior Wimbledon winner flourished this season and won both singles and doubles at the Malaysian Open.
That surge was part of a sustained burst of excellence for Barty, whose understated coach Craig Tyzzer was also deservedly acclaimed by receiving the coaching excellence high performance award.
Since the medal was inaugurated seven years ago, Sam Stosur (2010-12), Lleyton Hewitt ('13), Nick Kyrgios ('14), Sam Groth ('15) and Dylan Alcott have triumphed.
But there has not been a more popular winner than the effervescent Barty, whose sublime skill could eventually see her claim a major, most likely Wimbledon.
Her self-imposed absence from the sport triggered plenty of questions and introspection at all levels of tennis.
Her second, and most productive, stint with her first sporting love has delivered nothing but joy.
By reaching the Wuhan and Birmingham finals, Barty showcased her quality with victories over top-10 players Garbine Muguruza, Johanna Konta, Karolina Pliskova and Jelena Ostapenko.
Barty upstaged fellow nominees Daria Gavrilova, John Peers, Jordan Thompson and Kyrgios.
A highlight of the Newcombe Medal celebrations was the presentation of the Spirit of Tennis award to former Victorian Premier John Cain who was instrumental in the development of the Melbourne Park precinct.
Alex De Minaur was named male junior athlete of the year for the second year in a row, while Destanee Aiava collected female junior athlete of the year.
Archie Graham was awarded the most outstanding athlete with a disability.
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