Yes, but now she's meant to beat EVERYONE.
This was from a while ago, and I take your point in that the #1 is, in theory, the favorite in every match.
But, more to the point, Barty simply doesn't lose to players who aren't already at least somewhat dangerous.
The only loss this season that was a genuine surprise to me was the Wang/Qiang loss, and that may be a case of me underrating Wang/Qiang than anything else.
Really, dating back quite a ways, she doesn't suffer shock losses to absolute shockers. She hasn't had a loss on par with Muguruza-Muchova or Pliskova-Sasnovich or any of those big recent-breakthrough losses to lower ranked players.
Riske on grass is disappointing but not embarrassing. Mladenovic on clay is disappointing but not embarrassing. Kenin generally is disappointing but not embarrassing. In general, unless you think in advance, "this might be a tough match", Barty wins it.
That right there is a level of consistency we haven't seen in a long time among challengers for the top.
- Will she be consistently playing at this level for a long long time?
Yes, ignoring injuries. Ash is perhaps the most consistent player in the tour, and I don’t mean on not hitting errors, but consistency in her level. Throughout her career she’s never had dips in form. Ofcourse a big factor to that is her strong technique fundamentals, all court game and professional attitude.
That right there is a huge thing: her serve dips for X number of games, but she recovers always. She hasn't gotten the yips, she hasn't lost the court, she hasn't done anything really to demonstrate the kind of loss of form that some players go through.
On top of that, she doesn't seem to be redlining her body to achieve these results.
The other thing I'll say, this was really her first season playing an exclusively elite season.
2017, she was still playing qualies some events, and played a fair number of Int'l events (Kuala Lumpur, Strasbourg, Nottingham)
2018, she was playing mostly Premiers but also Nottingham (won it) and Strasbourg (SF, ret.), but also a few Premiers that didn't really make a ton of sense if she was expecting to be winning big titles (Charleston, Tokyo)
This season she was still scheduled at Strasbourg and Nottingham (withdrew, justifiably) but cut out a lot of the excess events.
She played Sydney-Australian Open, Indian Wells-Miami, Madrid-Rome-French Open, Birmingham-Wimbledon, Canada-Cincinnati-US Open, and Wuhan-Beijing-YEC. That's a VERY spare calendar, and she only lost early at....Canada, Rome, and Indian Wells, and even at Indian Wells she won a pair of matches.
If she maintains a schedule like that, it's hard to see how she picks up points if she stumbles, but at the same time she's only losing early(-ish) on the first tournament of a given season: Indian Wells first tournament after the Australian season, Rome the first tournament of the European season, Canada the first tournament of the American season....
It's just a really well balanced calendar without much 'flab' to it, and I can imagine her performing even more impressively next year by, for example, having a better appreciation of the early matches at Indian Wells/Rome/Canada.