‘Load of c**p’: Seven star’s Barty blast
Aussie tennis star Casey Dellacqua and Channel 7 sports presenter Jim Wilson have hit back at Ash Barty's critics after some commentators took issue with the Australian Open top seed bringing her niece into a post-match press conference.
After her semi-final loss to Sofia Kenin, who went on to defeat Garbine Muguruza in the decider at Melbourne Park, Barty fronted reporters with 11-week-old niece Olivia on her lap.
The world No. 1 was still looking on the bright side after her shock loss to the 14th seed, taking a glass-half-full approach to the grand slam and her entire home summer, which included a title in Adelaide earlier in January.
"It's been a hell of a summer," Barty said. "I mean, if you would have told me three weeks ago that we would have won a tournament in Adelaide, made the semi-finals of the Australian Open, I'd take that absolutely every single day of the week.
"I've learnt from all of the experiences that I've kind of been thrown into. I've loved every minute."
However, some suggested it was inappropriate for Barty to face the media with her sister's baby in tow and questioned whether it was a way of avoiding tough questions.
BBC tennis commentator David Law said on The Tennis Podcast "I don't think the baby should have been in there", broadcaster Catherine Whitaker said it was "not appropriate in the workplace" and analyst Matt Roberts said Barty using her niece "felt like a deflection".
Aussie doubles legend Mark Woodforde was another to question Barty's family affair, telling Fox Sports News: "She's a lovely young lady, we talk about how all Australians are embracing Ash because she's so humble and down to earth, but yes, I felt like maybe it was a way of deflecting some of the tough questions."
However, speaking on Weekend Sunrise today, Wilson blasted those who suggested Barty was using her niece to avoid a grilling from the press pack.
"I just feel like the whole hoo-hah with Ash, post-match after that semi-final, bringing her niece, the baby in, and some people are saying that it was like a smokescreen or trying to deflect the blame for her loss," Wilson said.
"What a load of c**p.
"This woman is a great role model and she wasn't deflecting the responsibility. She said she was beaten fair and square.
"She rarely sees her family, so they're in Melbourne for the two weeks (of the Australian Open). I thought it was a beautiful touch with her niece.
"Why are we trying to pick something out of someone who is such a great role model, carries herself so well and is someone we should celebrate?
"She is the real deal and she deserves much more respect than some of the critics (have shown) - as far as bringing her family in and having her family involved in what I thought was a pretty special moment."
Barty's former doubles partner Dellacqua also stood up for her good friend in the face of criticism.
"For Ash as a human being, she's just lost in the semi-finals of the Australian Open. It's very well documented that she's extremely close with her family. Is it really that big a deal that she takes her baby niece in?" Dellacqua said on Offsiders.
"That's how I see it. With everything that's going on in the world at the moment, I just think the fact she took her baby niece in there, she's disappointed, is it really that big a deal?
"Did it really stop any journalist from asking her a question? Honestly?"
Barty carried the hopes of a nation while trying to break Australia's 42-year title curse and become the first homegrown star to win the Australian Open since Chris O'Neil in 1978, but she fell short by going down to Kenin in straight sets in sweltering heat on Thursday.
Still, the 23-year-old maintained a balanced perspective and preferred to focus on the positives.
"The next time I walk out on court, the next time I kind of wake up in the morning, every experience you need to learn from. I've done that," Barty said.
"I feel like as a team we've grown. We've enjoyed every single minute.
"I can't wait to get started for kind of the rest of the year.
"I feel like it's going to happen pretty quickly and we're going to be back sitting at this table with an Australian summer next year."
Barty will take a short break to take stock before returning to the court in Dubai, then head to the US for the American hardcourt swing.
Of her Open campaign, Barty added: "We kind of debrief it, we enjoy it, we celebrate it.
"You don't get these opportunities every single week. We get to enjoy the experiences that we've learned, the experiences that we've had over the last month.
"Then gear up for the next few tournaments, kind of the start of the US summer."