Ash Barty says she’s “proud” of teenage prodigy Olivia Gadecki for choosing her own path after the world No.1’s understudy opted out of the Australian Open to remain unvaccinated.
Gadecki, who beat 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in February to kick-start a phenomenal maiden season on tour, is the first Australian to rule themselves out of the summer of tennis due to the COVID-19 vaccination requirement.
Tennis Australia spent weeks trying to convince the 19-year-old to get jabbed in order to meet government regulations required to contest the Open in January – and lead-up tournaments.
“Liv has her own career. I’ve spent a lot of time and I have a lot of love and a lot of respect for Olivia,” Barty said after winning a record fourth consecutive Newcombe Medal on Friday night.
“I’ve spoken to her a little bit, but she’s an adult and she has her own career and she makes her own decisions. That’s something that I’ve said to her a lot of the time.
“For me, I’ve grown up and made my own decisions. I’m accountable for my own decisions. She’s done the exact same thing.”
A shoo-in for an Australian Open wildcard after surging from an obscure, unranked player in January to world No.237, Gadecki will forefeit at least $140,000 by not being eligible to contest the Australian Open.
“Life is not all about money. In fact, that’s low down on anyone’s priority list,” Barty said.
“I think for Liv, it’s time for her to reconnect. I continue to chat to her. My opinion of her changes not at all. I’m proud that she’s made her decision, for her reasons, for her right reasons.
“And that’s all you do – is make the right decision for you.”
While not permitted to train on certain sites, Tennis Australia is expected to continue supporting Gadecki financially through its scholarship program, but only remotely unless the emerging star becomes fully vaccinated.
Gadecki will also be unable to compete in many other WTA and grand slam tournaments unless she’s fully vaccinated.
But Barty won’t be trying to influence her.
“I’m not in a position where I’m going to try and persuade and do anything in a sense to change her mind,” the Australian Open top seed said.
“I’m here as a friend to support her and love her.
“Whenever I see Liv I try and catch up with her. We chat through everything, not just tennis.
“I’m just so glad she’s at home at the moment being able to reconnect with her family.”