TENNIS: Ashleigh Barty's stunning 2017 campaign and meteoric rise up the WTA rankings has been rewarded, taking out the Newcombe Medal as Australia's most outstanding tennis player for the year.
Barty upstaged fellow finalists Daria Gavrilova, Nick Kyrgios, John Peers and Jordan Thompson to claim her first Newcombe Medal after finishing the year as the country's highest-ranked player.
Following a stint with the Brisbane Heat cricket side in the WBBL, the 21-year-old began this season ranked 271st in the world.
But Barty soared more than 250 spots to 17th in the rankings after a stellar season that saw her capture her maiden WTA event in Kuala Lumpur.
She also reached finals in Birmingham and Wuhan, received an invitation to the season-ending Elite Trophy event in Zhuhai and made the French Open women's doubles final with Casey Dellacqua, the first Australian duo to do so in 47 years.
Barty said Dellacqua was instrumental in inspiring her to return to the sport.
"She's my best mate but I don't think she quite understands how much of a massive impact she's had on my on life,” Barty said when accepting the award.
"Bringing me back into the sport to be honest, she started the ball rolling again to finish unfinished business in doubles.”
Barty, a former Wimbledon junior champion, took down several big names throughout 2017, including former world No.1s Karolina Pliskova, Garbine Muguruza, Angelique Kerber, Venus Williams and reigning French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.
Gavrilova last week paid tribute to her fellow Aussies, saying Barty's big year was inspiration for her.
"She's had a great year, really proud of her,” Gavrilova said.
"I knew she was playing good from the beginning of the year when we were playing Fed Cup.
"Sam (Stosur), myself and Ash, we're all really competitive and it's good to just push each other.”
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