Freeman in awe of Barty's Open run

Cathy Freeman says Ashleigh Barty is an inspiration to Australians.
Cathy Freeman says Ashleigh Barty is an inspiration to Australians.

Even Cathy Freeman is in awe of Ashleigh Barty.

Australia's most celebrated Indigenous athlete was a special guest at Melbourne Park on Thursday to watch Barty attempt to become the first Australian woman since Wendy Turnbull in 1980 to reach the Australian Open final.

"I can confidently say on behalf of Aussies and particularly the Indigenous community we're very proud of her," Freeman said at Thursday's Inspirational Lunch.

Freeman praised the world No.1's temperament and attitude ahead of her semi-final, then was front and centre at Rod Laver Arena hours later as Barty succumbed to a 7-6 (8-6) 7-5 loss to American Sofia Kenin.

"She's an amazing role model,' Freeman said.

"She seems to have a really good head on her shoulders, really community-minded, not too overawed by the success she's having - it's wonderful."

Freeman's defining gold medal victory in the 400m at the 2000 Sydney Olympics proved an inspiration to young girls, athletes and the Indigenous community.

Barty, a proud Ngaragu woman, is now making her own mark on the Australian sporting landscape.

"I think the impact that she can have on everybody but particularly young girls is quite profound," Freeman said.

"Her achievements and her story will get onto the psyche and into the blood of so many young girls around not just Australia, but the world, it's very cool."

Having reached the pinnacle of her sport on home soil, Freeman kept her advice to 23-year-old Barty simple.

"Its really important to just trust in your own, trust in yourself and trust in your training and your preparation," Freeman said.

"And just know that we're there for you as keen sporting enthusiasts and (a) crazy champion-loving population."

Australian Associated Press