BIRMINGHAM, England - For Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua, their breakthrough year in doubles last year ended prematurely - after making three of the four Grand Slam finals, they narrowly missed out on a spot at the four-team WTA Finals doubles event, finishing just one spot outside at No.5.
This year, with the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global increasing the doubles format to eight teams, everything has changed - and Barty and Dellacqua are more inspired than ever.
"Casey and I just missed out last year - we were fifth and only four were accepted - so it was pretty heartbreaking," WTA Rising Star Barty said from the Aegon Classic in Birmingham. "Now having eight in singles and doubles is really exciting, not just for us but for everyone on the tour. You can have a few good tournaments, especially in the Slams, and you're right up there contending with everybody."
Barty and Dellacqua are currently sitting at No.12 on the Road To Singapore doubles leaderboard, but don't be fooled - not only did they just come off a very strong few weeks in France, winning the title in Strasbourg and making the quarterfinals of the French Open, but the faster surfaces are where they gathered a lot of steam last year, winning Birmingham and making the Wimbledon and US Open finals.
And while they would have been eight spots out last year at this point, they're only four out now.
"It's a different mentality this year. You're always in the hunt," Barty said. "Casey and I had a reasonably good French Open, made the quarterfinals, and now hopefully we can try and defend our title in Birmingham and have another good Wimbledon, then continue at the tournaments before the US Open.
"It's an exciting time for us. Hopefully we can make the Top 8."
If they do indeed make it to the WTA Finals, it will be another new experience for Barty. "I've been through Singapore, but I haven't actually been there," she said. "But before thinking about going there, we're really just trying to knuckle down and do our thing, and hopefully we'll get there."
Barty, who turned 18 earlier this year, isn't just one of the most promising WTA Rising Stars, she's also one of the most promising players to come out of the Asia-Pacific region. The Australian already reached career-high WTA Rankings of No.129 in singles and No.12 in doubles last September.
Follow the WTA stars on their Road To Singapore all year long right here on www.wtafinals.com.