Barty itching to get started at Australian Open

FILE PHOTO: Tennis - WTA Premier 5 - Qatar Open - Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex, Doha, Qatar - February 28, 2020 Australia's Ashleigh Barty in action during her semi final match against Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova REUTERS/Ibraheem Al Omari

SYDNEY (Reuters) - World number one Ash Barty is itching to get back to competitive tennis at the Australian Open but has poured cold water on the idea that she might be set to end the 43-year wait for a homegrown women's champion.

Barty reached the semi-finals at Melbourne Park for the first time last year before sitting out most of the rest of the season at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 24-year-old remains Australia's best hope of singles success when the year's first Grand Slam starts on Feb. 8 but Barty urged her compatriots not to get their hopes up.

"They can think whatever they like. If they expect me to win the tournament, then that's their expectations," Barty told the Australian Associated Press on Saturday.

"But mine certainly aren't that for now. It's about doing the right things right from the start, from the very first match. If it's good enough, it is. And if it's not, it's not. But that's OK."

Barty last played a tournament match at the Qatar Open last February, deciding to remain at home in the relative safety of Queensland rather than travel to New York for the U.S. Open or to Paris for her French Open title defence.

"Obviously I haven't played competition tennis for a year now so it's going to be a challenge but we also know that hopefully again it will be a long season and we don't have to panic if we don't get the perfect start," she added.

"We'll just try and go out there and do the best that we can and whatever happens will happen. I feel ready to go and I'm just itching to get started."

Barty did not need to quarantine before the Australian Open and will play an exhibition event in Adelaide on Friday before returning to Melbourne for the Grand Slam.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by William Mallard)

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