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Think like a World №1. Ash Barty — Mindset

To think like a world no.1 sounds like a bit of a pipe dream, so today we’re going to do a commentary on an interview that Ashleigh Barty — the current world no.1 in women’s tennis — gave for BBC Sport.


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Richard Donovan

3 years ago | 5 min read

To think like a world no.1 sounds like a bit of a pipe dream, so today we’re going to do a commentary on an interview that Ashleigh Barty — the current world no.1 in women’s tennis — gave for BBC Sport.

So first up, a bit of background — Ashleigh Barty won her first grand slam in 2019 at the French Open. She didn’t know then that she wouldn’t be back a year later to defend her title. So what happened? Did she lose form? Did she get injured? Actually none of those — she DECIDED NOT to defend her title.

Tough Decision

You’ve probably guessed already that this wasn’t a standard, run of the mill, decision. COVID-19 had ravaged the ATP Tour along with the rest of the world. However, the French Open did go ahead — albeit, without Ashleigh Barty.

The decision was probably the toughest of the whole year — not being able to try and defend my first Grand Slam title.
Ashleigh Barty — BBC Sport

It’s easy to imagine how such a decision could weigh you down and destroy your focus. For some people, this could derail their whole career if not managed carefully. Many would have felt too much pressure to have made such a massive decision and would probably have played the French Open — potentially against their better judgement.

But not Ashleigh Barty.

In all honesty, I didn’t watch any. I didn’t sit there thinking, ‘I wish that was me’, because I was completely content with what I had at home — knowing I made all the right decisions for the right reasons.

Not one bit of me had any bit of regret or a fear of missing out. I slept pretty well at night knowing that.
ASHLEIGH BARTY — BBC SPORT

Hearing these words from Ashleigh sounds unremarkable, AND YET, somehow extraordinary. She did not sit watching the tournament with regret, dwelling on the situation and questioning her own decisions. She did not dwell on what she was missing or fuel her mind with negative thoughts — she just got on with her life.

It may not be immediately apparent, but Ashleigh gives quite a lot away about herself and her mindset in those few short sentences. Let’s dig a little deeper to explore why Ashleigh was able to make such a huge decision, be content with it and handle the situation so well.

Several points jump out at me here, first of all, Ashleigh appears to take complete responsibility for her own decisions and her own actions. She is not looking to blame anyone or anything for her circumstances. This allows her to keep control of her own thoughts and feelings on the matter and not place that responsibility at the feet of others.

She goes on to say:

It was more about accepting what was happening in the world and knowing that a lot of it was out of my control
ASHLEIGH BARTY — BBC SPORT

This reveals that Ashleigh doesn’t waste her mental energy on situations and events outside of her control. She works on what she can control; her own response, her own reactions and her own thoughts.

Secondly, Ashleigh demonstrates gratitude in a situation when many would overlook what they have. Showing gratitude and appreciation for what you already have is a far better use of your mental energy than focusing on what you want but don’t have.

She looks for the positives rather than dwell on the negatives. She even made the most of the break from tennis by dusting off her golf clubs and managed to shave a few shots off her handicap. Ashleigh now plays off a handicap of three. She also references it being a rare chance to spend a (warm) winter at home in Brisbane — I’m guessing something the normal running of the ATP Tour doesn’t allow for.

To be so comfortable with such a huge decision, I’d speculate that Ashleigh has well-defined core values. Core values can really help you when tough decisions need to be made. Drawing on your core values help you weigh up whether specific decisions are aligned to your core values or not. When you know what your core values are, it becomes easier to say no and justify to yourself why.

Ashleigh’s core values are demonstrated again when she says:

Obviously, we made some decisions about how much we would play throughout the year, but for me, it was a no-brainer: prioritising our health first, and knowing that tennis is not the be-all and end-all for me
ASHLEIGH BARTY — BBC SPORT

Here, she uses the term “no-brainer” to prioritise her health ahead of her tennis career. This highlights health as a possible core value of hers.

This is reinforced again later when the prospect of returning to the French Open later this year comes up.

Things change so quickly all over the world, it seems. Our priorities haven’t changed. It will be the health of my team and my family and me as well. I think we will plan as best as we can to travel and to play, but ultimately those decisions will be made closer to the time.
ASHLEIGH BARTY — BBC SPORT

Here she places emphasis once again on health, not just her own, but also that of her family and team. She seems completely at ease with the uncertainty of the situation. She knows what her priorities are, and she acknowledges that circumstances may not be under her control.

To start to bring this post to a close, we see how Ashleigh demonstrates self-belief and confidence. When asked whether she still felt like the best player in the world, having not played competitive tennis for so long — she had this to say:

I feel like I’m getting the best out of myself, and that’s all that matters.
I feel like we’ve earned the position at the top of the rankings, and I know that I do a hell of a lot of work off the court to try and be the best I can be, and that’s all I can do.
ASHLEIGH BARTY — BBC SPORT

Ashleigh highlights that getting the best out of herself is all that matters. This shows that she doesn’t concern herself with things outside of her control and focuses on what she can control.

She shows self-belief and confidence in her ability by recognising that her achievements directly result from her effort and actions, not simply down to chance.

Final thoughts

You can find the full article here.

I found this article interesting because of the ease with which Ashleigh talks about fundamental mindset topics without addressing them directly. Given her status in the game of tennis, I do not doubt that she’s worked on the performance of her mind.

It’s clear to me that this is really paying dividends for her. Anyone can learn the mentals skills demonstrated here by Ashleigh and think like a world no.1. A few things you can do to build your own awareness are:

  • Make a list of your worries and note whether they are in your control or out of your control.
  • Start taking responsibility for your own actions and stop looking for external blame.
  • Start a gratitude journal.

However, you can greatly accelerate the process by working with a mindset coach. Regardless of whether you’re an athlete, IT professional or a parent - a mindset coach can help you develop your awareness and build the mental skills for peak mental performance.

If you’d like to discover more about my mindset coaching then book a free discovery call with me.

If you’d like to see a post on anything specific in the realms of mindset then shot me a message.

Thanks for reading.

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Richard Donovan

Hi there! I’m Richard Donovan and I’ve been a Software Developer for over two decades. I started at the bottom and worked my way up, eventually becoming a Software Architect for a global FTSE 100 company. I’m self-taught and I believe in the power of hard work and determination. In addition to my software development career, I’m also a licensed Mindspan Peak Performance Trainer and Coach, as well as a Personal Trainer and online fitness coach. I love staying active and playing sports like squash and golf. What is my why? As a Software Developer, I’ve learned that taking care of your mental and physical health is key to performing at your best. I’ve struggled with self-doubt and lack of confidence, but by focusing on my wellbeing, I’ve seen significant improvements in my work and overall confidence. I’m passionate about helping others who may be struggling and believe that by working together, we can create a supportive and healthy environment in our industry. I would love the oppo


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