THERE is a new No.1 in women’s tennis. So new in fact was Ashleigh Barty’s ascension to the top spot in the world rankings after back-to-back wins at Roland Garros and Birmingham that it seemed to have escaped Serena Williams’ attention entirely yesterday.

“Wow, that’s great,” said Williams, after some serious prompting. “I don’t know anyone that has anything negative to say about her. She’s like the sweetest, cutest girl on tour.”

Williams – in town as she chases further greatness and a 24th major title which would equal Margaret Court’s all-time record – has spent some time recently in close contact with the Lionesses of England’s Women’s World Cup squad, who just happen to be taking on the USA in the semi-finals imminently.

“You know, it’s so funny because obviously I’m rooting for US – I love the team,” said Williams. “But when I was training in Paris, the England team were training exactly where I was every day. It was so fun to see how hard they worked, just how amazing they were. At one point I wanted to join in their ab exercise.”

Mind you, Barty might be able to trump even that. The 23-year-old Queenslander – who remarkably took 18 months out from the sport to play cricket instead – was hanging out in the away dressing room and balcony at Lord’s after the Aussies overcame England on Tuesday at the ICC cricket world cup.

“It’s always good when Aussies beat the English, isn’t it?” she said, introducing some good natured sledging towards her interrogators. “At Lord’s, it was incredible. The Australian cricket team were nice enough to invite us into the dressing rooms, as well, which was a bucket list item. Standing on the balcony at Lord’s was pretty incredible.

“Cricket in general is a very different sport. It’s hard to take too many comparisons. But what I learned in cricket has helped me immensely back into tennis.”

Barty wouldn’t be human if she wasn’t picturing herself out on the balcony at the All England Club, showing off the Venus Rosewater dish to her public right now. While the sport is littered with WTA Tour No.1s who have been chewed up and spat out by Williams, there are no boundaries to what she can achieve.

“Yeah, it’s new feeling for me [to be world No.1],” she said. “Something that I’ve never experienced before. It hasn’t really changed much, to be honest. We’re still trying to go about all of our business, all of our prepar-ations the same way. We know what we’ve been doing has been working. For us, it’s about trying to keep that normality as much as possible.

“There’s more attention, there’s more of that outside noise. But from what we’re trying to do on the court, it hasn’t changed much. We’ll just keep trying to grow and be better every single day.”

“It’s my understanding that when she stopped playing, she wasn’t necessarily enjoying it much,” was Andy Murray’s take on Barty yesterday. “But to see her around the courts now, it just seems like she’s loving it. Maybe if she hadn’t taken that break and that time away, it wouldn’t necessarily be right for her.”

Barty isn’t the only Australian-born player looking forward to pulling on the whites again this fortnight. Johanna Konta admitted she was clueless about cricket but, fresh from semi-final heartbreak in Paris, she is keen to go better than 2017, where she made it all the way to the last four hear.

She faces Ana Bogdan, who she overcame only a matter of weeks ago in Rabat, in the first round.

“I think probably what stands out from my 2017 run here is just enjoying the routine of being able to come here, play my match, then go home,” said Konta, who has been keeping her mind off things playing a Scrabble-type game called Bananagram. “More than anything, I think I really embraced that. I felt lucky I got to play one of the biggest tournaments in the world and go home at the end of the day.”