Ash Barty beats Collins to end 44-year wait for home Australian Open winner

  • No 1 seed beats Collins 6-3, 7-6 (2) at Melbourne Park
  • Barty’s home victory seals her third grand slam title

When Ash Barty took her first steps on to Rod Laver Arena for her first Australian Open final, there was already no doubt about the completeness of her game, the integrity with which she carries herself and the historic career she is building before our eyes. But it still remained to be seen how she would handle and digest a moment like nothing before it.

She did so with the composure of a champion who could go on to win so much more. Before a crowd that lived every moment with her, Barty calmly navigated the fire of Danielle Collins, recovering from a 5-1 second-set deficit to win 6-3, 7-6 (2) and clinch the Australian Open for the first time. She is the first Australian to win an Australian Open singles title since Chris O’Neil in 1978. She did not drop a set. With three grand-slam titles to her name, Barty has joined Serena Williams as the only active women’s players to hold grand slam titles on all three surfaces.

Having spent much of the tournament, and recent years, speaking proudly of her Indigenous heritage, she continues to follow in the footsteps of four-times champion Evonne Goolagong Cawley, who surprised Barty by appearing on court to hand her the trophy.

“To be able to have this feeling and experience this a few times over, I just understand how fortunate I am to be able to experience that, because not many people get to do that,” said Barty.

“It’s just been an incredible journey over this past 20 years of hitting a tennis ball but particularly the last five or six years in this second phase of my career.”

From the moment fans began to arrive at Melbourne Park in their thousands, wearing T-shirts with Barty’s name and her two flags, the magnitude of this occasion was clear. Australian sporting royalty and celebrities followed; Rod Laver, Cathy Freeman, Russell Crowe and O’Neil were present to watch sporting history unfold.

The players were unaffected by the occasion and atmosphere early on but Barty soon took control by serving smoothly, using her forehand to move Collins and taking the solitary break at 3-2 as she moved up a set.

Ash Barty roars with delight after sealing victory in Melbourne
Ash Barty roars with delight after sealing victory in Melbourne. Photograph: Dave Hunt/AAP

Unsurprisingly, Collins was not shaken. She opened the second set by laying waste to the Barty second serve with her backhand, rushing to control the baseline and punctuating her victorious points with typical shouts of joy. She broke serve for 2-0, which soon became a 5-1 lead.

As Collins soared, Barty shrank. She missed forehands, fluffed routine volleys and even her trusty backhand slice gave up unforced errors. But she found clarity with a third set looming and reeled off four games in a row to get back on serve.

“I just wanted to try and shift and be a little more aggressive, adjust a couple of things tactically just to get momentum if we went to a third,” she said. “Tennis is a funny game with the scoring system and things can change so quickly it feels like at times.”

The pair held serve until 6-6, but Barty seized the moment, taking control with her forehand, pushing Collins from the baseline and ultimately playing the tie-break of her life.

As Barty’s forehand passing shot sailed past Collins at the close, she reacted by screaming out in joy several times. Barty is reserved on the court and her reactions after her biggest successes have previously been more understated. Her response underlined the importance of this achievement.

“I didn’t quite know what to do or what to feel,” she said. “Just being able to let out a little bit of emotion, which is a little bit unusual for me, and being able to celebrate with everyone who was there in the crowd, the energy was incredible tonight.”

As Barty took in her achievement, she was surrounded by those who have supported her. She walked over to Casey Dellacqua, her former doubles partner and best friend who was instrumental in her return to the sport after a hiatus, and hugged her while she was doing her broadcasting duties by the court.

As the trophy ceremony began, the announcer, Todd Woodbridge, revealed that Goolagong Cawley, Barty’s idol and friend, would hand over the trophy. Barty was visibly shocked.

Barty was carrying the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup everywhere she went as she conducted her media duties. Asked whether she had felt any extra pressure from attempting to win her home title, Barty rejected the suggestion entirely.

“I have been close before, but now that we’ve been able to achieve this, you guys don’t need to talk about it anymore,” she said. “You were the ones who added fuel to the fire, because for us it was just the same processes and the same enjoyment, regardless of where we’re playing in the world, what round it is.

“That has no impact on how much I enjoy my tennis and go out there or how much I try and compete.”

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A curious aspect of Barty’s rise is that she has not beaten a top 10 player in any of her three grand slam title runs and she did not face a top 20 opponent here.

If she was any other player it would be a greater point of discussion, but Barty has won 11 of her past 12 matches against the top 10. It is rather an apt reflection of the uncertainty beneath her, and how her consistent excellence continues to separate her from the rest.


Tumaini Carayol at Melbourne Park

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