French Open champion Ashleigh Barty says returning to tennis was her best decision
|2019 French Open|
|Venue: Roland Garros, Paris Dates: 26 May-9 June|
|Coverage: Live text and radio commentary on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.|
Australia's Ashleigh Barty says returning to tennis was the best decision she has made after winning her first Grand Slam singles title at the French Open.
Barty, 23, took a break from the sport in 2014 to play professional cricket.
She returned almost two years later and capped her comeback by beating Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova 6-1 6-3 at Roland Garros on Saturday.
"I never dreamt I'd be sat here with the French Open trophy," she said.
Asked if she thought she would have become a Grand Slam singles champion had she not taken a break from tennis, she said: "Absolutely not. I don't even know if I'd be sitting here talking to you if I was playing tennis if I didn't step away.
"I feel like it was the best decision that I made at the time, and it was an even better one coming back."
Barty, who was seeded eighth at Roland Garros, stepped away from the tour following the 2014 US Open, saying she felt tennis was a "lonely sport".
The Queenslander switched to cricket and played for the Brisbane Heat in the women's Big Bash.
"I needed time to step away, to live a normal life, because this tennis life certainly isn't normal," she said.
"I never closed any doors, saying, 'I'm never playing tennis again'."
Barty returned in early 2016 and has since won four tour titles - including the Miami Open in March - as well as the US Open women's doubles title last year.
Now she has gone a step further by becoming the first Australian since Margaret Court in 1973 to win a Roland Garros singles title.
She will climb up to second in the world rankings following her triumph on the Paris clay.
"I think a new perspective in my life and in my career, it's brought this new belief and this feeling of belonging at the very top level," Barty added.
Clay had been considered Barty's weakest surface and she had only reached the second round at Roland Garros twice in five appearances before this year.
Barty's serving was key to her success, hitting a tournament high 38 aces and winning 81% of service games - a tally which nobody who reached the third round bettered.
"It's been an incredible couple of weeks, that's for sure," she said.
"I think any time I can play my brand of tennis, I know that I can match it against the best in the world.
"For the last fortnight, the stars have aligned for me. I have been able to play really good tennis when I've needed it."
Vondrousova, who beat British number one Johanna Konta in the semi-finals, was aiming to become the first teenager to win a Grand Slam since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 US Open.
She will rise into the world's top 20 for the first time after a superb clay-court season in which no other female player has won more matches.
"I think it's going to change my life now," the Czech said on her success at Roland Garros.
"A lot of people texted me. I was all over Czech TV. It was kind of strange for me, but I'm enjoying it.
"I can't really believe it still. It's a huge thing for me."