Ash Barty says she was amazed when it was revealed Evonne Goolagong Cawley was present to hand her the trophy after her Australian Open triumph on Saturday. Tennis Australia did not disclose Goolagong Cawley’s appearance in Melbourne until Todd Woodbridge, the MC, announced her presence.
“I thought she wasn’t coming. I’d spoken to her earlier in the week and she was staying at home and not being able to travel down,” said Barty, smiling. “To have that surprise was amazing. I can’t believe Craig [Tiley] kept it a secret.
“It was really special just to be able to give her a hug. It’s the first time I’ve seen her in 12 months. We had a few hugs for a few different reasons, and to be able to see her in the flesh and chat to her was incredible.”
Barty, a Ngarigo woman, is the second Indigenous Australian Open champion after Goolagong Cawley. She considers the seven-times grand slam winner an idol and friend who played an important role in her return after she took a hiatus from the sport. “To be able to experience that together on such a big occasion, on such a beautiful court, and in a tournament that means so much to both of us,” Barty said.
“It was really nice to have her there just as someone to lean on when I wasn’t really sure what to do. She’s an amazing human being, and I’m very, very lucky to be able to call her a friend. Very lucky to be able to give her a hug in some of the biggest moments in my life.”
As Goolagong entered the court to present the trophy to Barty, Cathy Freeman, another of Australia’s most famous Indigenous athletes, was scrambling to take a picture of her. Barty said she did not know Freeman was there and she only glimpsed her after the match had ended. The trio posed for a picture together.
“Looking up at the end to see Cathy, she is an inspiration to so many people all around the globe,” said Barty on Channel Nine. “For our heritage and family, she is just the best. To share that tonight with Evonne Goolagong and Cathy, I will never forget it.”