Ash Barty may not have won that Australian Open, but she did pull in plenty of criticism for having the gaul to hold a child while working. That's right, the Australian tennis star was criticized for bringing her baby niece to a press conference last week because some claimed that it was "deflecting," and kept reporters from asking the "difficult questions." I'm still not sure how her critics reached this conclusion, but if I figure it out, I'll let you know.
Barty lost her chance at the title after losing to Sofia Kenin during the Australian Open's semi-final round. She greeted reporters after the match with her 11-week-old niece Olivia sitting on her lap, remarkably cheery considering her loss. “It’s been a hell of a summer,” Barty said on Jan. 29. “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.”
But rather than praise Barty for her good sportsmanship, many took it upon themselves to criticize her for holding her sister's baby — yes, really.
During an episode of The Tennis Podcast, BBC tennis commentator David Law said, “I don’t think the baby should have been in there. I think it is a place of work. It’s an office space. We are there to ask questions and, as lovely a sight as it was on one hand, it’s not really what’s supposed to go on.”
Other sports commentators chimed in with similar sentiments. Mark Woodforde, another Australian tennis pro, told Fox News as much as well. “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," he said.
But others voiced their support for Barty using every spare moment to connect with her family. Channel 7 sports presenter Jim Wilson spoke on Weekend Sunrise about the criticism, saying, "What a load of crap. 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 ... I thought it was a beautiful touch with her niece."
Wilson went on to call for respect for Barty, rather than criticism. “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?," he said on Weekend Sunrise. "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 double partner Casey Dellacqua also defended her against the criticism while appearing on the sports podcast Offsiders. “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."
Indeed, Barty regularly showcases her close family ties. Her nieces and nephews appear on her Instagram fairly often, mixed in with tennis action shots. Two of the "gremlins," as she called them, were posed with her in a paid partnership post for Jaguar in September. And in July, she and one of her nieces enjoyed a Tuesday morning "babychino and park play date" together. These are two of many posts with her younger family members, making it really unsurprising that one of them would pop up in a press conference.
Speaking on Offsiders, Dellacqua also asked the question on everyone's mind: "Is it really that big a deal that she takes her baby niece in? ... 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?"
No, it didn't stop any journalist from asking her a question; and no, it's not that big of a deal. But for some reason, people persist in the notion that a woman can't be a professional with a child anywhere near her. At the end of the day, I think Barty put it best when she introduced her "newest niece" during the press conference: "This is what life's all about, it's amazing."