Barty on ice as promoters play it safe
ASHLEIGH Barty is the face of the Brisbane International. Too bad no-one has got to see her yet.
Day after day the draw for the women's singles is released. Day after day Barty's name isn't on it.
It all gets down to the fact that for the first time since its inception in 2009 the tournament has been split into two events: the men's ATP Cup contested by international teams starting last Friday and the women's Brisbane International sanctioned by the WTA which started on Monday.
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Trouble is, for the first three days of the women's event the two tournaments overlap, and the men get to play on the main Pat Rafter Arena, while the women are relegated to the outside courts.
All very well if the Brisbane International was a second-rate event, but it's not. In fact the three top-ranked women in the world are competing.
And even worse, the world No. 1 just happens to be local superstar Barty.
Admittedly, when the decision was made to split the two events was made over a year ago, no-one could have predicted Barty's meteoric rise.
But now that she is arguably Queensland's favourite sports star there is no way the promoters want to risk having her play - and, God forbid lose - on a small outside court.
Which is why, apart from two doubles matches, she has been kept on ice until Thursday when she can make her long-awaited first appearance on centre court.
And also why she is in for a gruelling four-day schedule between Thursday and, all going to plan, the final on Sunday.
Until then, the promoters will just have to keep their fingers crossed that nothing goes wrong and the final they most want to happen - Barty versus current Australian Open champion and world No. 3 Naomi Osaka - comes to fruition.
Japan's Osaka isn't the No. 2 seed for this event - that honour goes to world No. 2 Karolina Pliskova from the Czech Republic - but one only has to look at the banners around the venue to realise which one is the promoters favourite.
Along with the catch-line "Rise Up" there are only two players featured - Barty and Osaka.
It is a fact not lost on Osaka who won her first-round match against Greece's Maria Sakkari on Tuesday.
"For me it's cool," she said when asked about the campaign promoting the event as a one-on-one showdown. "I'm getting asked a lot of questions about my rivalry with Ash.
"It's more something that's done by other people.
"I mean Federer and Nadal had a rivalry and people would promote that. That's the first thing that comes into my mind (when I'm asked about the rivalry) because I'm the third seed here."
Maybe, but she's the one on the posters.
"Yeah, she laughs. "And I appreciate it."
As will the crowds - and the promoters - once she and Barty can finally get onto that main court.