Stellar year celebrated at Tennis Australia Awards
27 November 2018
TENNIS: Ash Barty and Alex de Minaur became the first ever joint winners of the prestigious Newcombe medal, joined by a slew of fellow award winners at the ninth annual Newcombe Medal, Tennis Australia Awards on Monday.
Barty and De Minaur were awarded Australian tennis’ highest honour by legend John Newcombe at the annual awards ceremony, edging out fellow nominees Dylan Alcott and John Millman.
Newcombe said that from four exceptional nominees, the selection decision came down to one between Barty and De Minaur.
“That was very difficult,” Newcombe said. “So we did the only sensible thing. For the first time, we have dual medallists.”
For Barty, another outstanding year on the international circuit saw her achieve career high rankings in both singles and doubles.
The 22-year-old is currently one of only two women ranked inside the world’s top 20 in both disciplines.
Barty won her first Grand Slam at the US Open in doubles and finished the year on a high, winning the WTA Elite Trophy Final in singles in Zhuhai.
“It’s been another phenomenal year, in particular led by Tyz (Craig Tyzzer), my coach,” Barty said.
“He’s the most phenomenal person. And he’s not only improved my game on the court but he’s helped me become a better person. And I really wouldn’t be able be do that without his support.
“We’ve had some amazing additions to my team this year, and every single person sitting at my table has influenced me in different ways throughout my life and career.
“It truly is amazing to be standing up here again. I’m very grateful and very thankful to be in the position to be able to play the sport that I love, to do this as a job and to enjoy every single moment.
“Alex has had one of the most incredible years I’ve ever seen. He thoroughly deserves the award as well. What he’s been able to achieve this year has put tennis in a very good place on the men’s side.
“Maybe we will play doubles one day.”
De Minaur, 19, enjoyed a breakout season, pushing his ranking from outside the top 200 to world No.31 and reaching the third round of both Wimbledon and the US Open.
He capped off his year as finalist at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan and was named ATP Newcomer of the Year.
“This is something I definitely did not expect,” he said.
“It’s been a whirlwind of a year – I’ve enjoyed every second of it. I’ve just tried to keep improving each day, keep battling it out, keep fighting every single point. I’m super proud of my efforts.
“I could not have done it without the great team of guys I’ve got around me. Starting with my coach Adolfo Gutierrez, who’s not here right now.
"My manager David Drysdale, Phil Bonney, and also got to thank Lleyton Hewitt, who’s been a great mentor of mine and has helped me out a lot, helped me really believe in myself and that I do belong here on the tour.
“I want to congratulate Ash again on another amazing year – what she has done is just truly remarkable, not only on court but off the court as well. Really would not want to let you down in mixed doubles," he laughed.
A highlight of the evening’s celebrations at Melbourne’s Palladium Ballroom was the presentation of the Spirit of Tennis Award to Casey Dellacqua.
Dellacqua was presented with the award by Australia’s Fed Cup captain and former teammate Alicia Molik.
The Spirit of Tennis Award recognises an individual who has personified the essence of leadership, passion, sportsmanship, goodwill and dedication to the sport while making a major contribution to the stature of tennis.
And Molik was thrilled to present the award to a player she described as “a friend of many years”.
“To those of us who know her and love her, she’ll always be a warm and wonderful person with great integrity, first of all, who values family and friendship above all, above competing, above results,” Molik said.
“Truly this embodies the spirit of tennis. Casey – a big congratulations. We’re all extremely proud of you.
“You represented your country with distinction – two Olympics, so many Fed Cups, and of course your mixed doubles Grand Slam title and of course so many Grand Slam finals with our very own Ash (Barty).
“Casey’s dealt with more than her fair share of injuries, surgeries and set backs and her commitment to coming back, every time stronger than before, is an inspiration to us all.”
Dellacqua announced her retirement earlier this year, and was honoured for her outstanding achievements both on and off the court throughout a professional career spanning 16 years.
The West Australian peaked at world No.26 in singles, reaching seven Grand Slam doubles finals and a mixed doubles win at Roland Garros in 2011. She earned a career-high doubles ranking of No.3 in February 2016.
Dellacqua was overwhelmed with emotion when she accepted her award.
“I’ve had such an amazing career – the highlight for me is obviously always representing my country. I will miss that tremendously,” she said.
“I want to thank all my Fed Cup teammates and the other Australian girls who have made my time on tour so much fun.
“There’s always another half that paves the way for you to be able to do what you love. And I’ve been very grateful to have Amanda along the way to support me and our children.
“I actually have said for a number of years, if there’s any award that I could win, it would be the Spirit of Tennis Award, because it’s something that has always I guess stood true to me.
“I’ve always felt that you can be a great tennis player but it’s being gracious that goes along with that that I really value. I’m really thankful and grateful for this award.”
Destanee Aiava collected Female Junior Athlete of the Year for the second year running while Youth Olympic silver medallist, Rinky Hijikata was named Male Junior Athlete of the Year. It was back-to-back wins for Archie Graham who was awarded the Most Outstanding Athlete with a Disability.
You can find the full list of winners HERE.