• With experts claiming that 22-year-old Ashleigh Barty has the best backhand slice in the women’s game of tennis, the best overall net game, the second best second serve and a top-five forehand, the question must be asked.

    What was she doing playing cricket?

    The above figures represent a consensus of 20 coaches, former players and expert analysts.

    She also has a new gig as the spokeswoman for sports streaming service Kayo and as much as anything, sponsor endorsements do not go to those who are just rising, they go to those that have risen.

    She flew under the radar for a while, but now, opponents have resorted to studying her game in pursuit of a weakness on which to base a strategy to beat her.

    Barty has made it to number 15 in the official rankings, but she says she has much to do in order to pick off one of the 14 rankings spots above her.

    In other words, she has the 80 percent mastered, but needs a push to chip away at the remaining 20 percent that mark the difference between occasional tour winner and the elite that claim one or more of the Grand Slams.

    Barty intends to train for the upcoming season in Brisbane with coach Craig Tyzzer. The design of that plan is to have her in top form for the 2019 Australian Open when it begins on January 14.

    Barty, the one-time professional cricket player, is also a keen golfer with a 10 handicap, so there is no question of her native athletic talent.

    Not as large and powerful as some of the other women on the tour, it is tempting to draw comparisons with Rod Laver, who routinely dispatched larger and stronger opponents.

    Barty would seem to be the heir apparent to Sam Stosur, but for the fact that Stosur is not yet ready to call time and is confident of a singles renaissance for the upcoming season.

    Those same experts who rated Barty’s skills so favourably think she is close to winning a Grand Slam, perhaps as early as the year just ahead.