Ashleigh Barty wins Australian Open women's singles title

MELBOURNE, Australia – The 44-year drought was over in the sun-scorched country of Ashleigh Barty. Barty, often impenetrable on a tenni...


MELBOURNE, Australia – The 44-year drought was over in the sun-scorched country of Ashleigh Barty. Barty, often impenetrable on a tennis court, had just let his guard down with an unabashed howl of glee that could almost be heard above the roars of Rod Laver Arena.

Now Barty, Australia’s first Australian Open singles champion since 1978, was waving someone across the deep blue expanse, waving with both hands and a relaxed smile.

Casey Dellacqua emerged from the sidelines. They’ve been close for a decade – ever since Barty called the moxie up at 15 to ask her to play doubles – and it seemed fitting on this fulfilling Saturday night that Dellacqua, now retired, was the first to kiss her.

“She brought me back into the sport,” Barty said.

Dellacqua supported Barty’s decision in September 2014 to leave the tennis tour. Barty, just 18, was depressed, lonely and desperate to live a more normal life than that offered by hotels and training courts. And when Barty had spent more than a year away from the game, playing professional cricket and leaving jet lag behind, it was Dellacqua who asked her out for a hit and helped her realize that she wanted to fully explore his prodigious tennis talent. .

Barty returned to the tour in 2016 unseeded but with full commitment, and Saturday’s 6-3, 7-6(2) victory over Danielle Collins of the United States was the latest proof that she had made the right decision. , for herself first and foremost, but also for her sport-mad country.

“She knows how proud I am of her,” Dellacqua said as she sat next to Barty on the Channel Nine set in Australia on Saturday. “Everyone thinks I’ve done a lot, but I can’t explain what Ash has done for me.”

For a tennis nation like Australia, home to Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall and grass courts in country towns and posh clubs, it’s hard to believe it would take 44 years to win any tournament. , let alone theirs. But the drought was real in Australia, as local champions like Patrick Rafter and Lleyton Hewitt and Samantha Stosur won major singles titles overseas but fell short in Melbourne.

Barty, now 25, solved the riddle – she actually did it – by not dropping a set in any of her seven matches at this year’s Australian Open.

Born and raised in the scorching Australian state of Queensland, Barty was ranked No. 1 for over 100 weeks and became a hugely popular figure in her home country. His matches at this year’s Open attracted large television audiences.

But so far his most significant triumphs have come by far from Australia as well. She won her first Grand Slam singles title in 2019 at the French Open and won Wimbledon last year when most Australians were unable to travel due to coronavirus restrictions.

But she was able to host a “Barty Party” at her house this year, beating Collins, the 27th seed, in prime time.

After erasing two breaks of serve to go from a 1-5 deficit in the second set, she dominated the tiebreaker and ended her win with a forehand winner.

After hugging Dellacqua, Barty was presented with the winner’s trophy by another of his touchstones, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, a four-time Australian Open champion who, like Barty, is of Indigenous Australian descent. The two women from different eras – Goolagong Cawley is 70 – have developed a deep connection, and Goolagong Cawley’s appearance on Saturday night came as a surprise to Barty, who hadn’t seen her in a year.

“As an Australian, the most important part of this tournament is being able to share it with so many people,” Barty said in her victory speech. “You guys today in the crowd are nothing short of exceptional. This crowd is one of the most fun I’ve played in front of and you brought me so much joy here today. You relaxed me and you forced me to play my best tennis and against a champion like Danielle, I know I absolutely had to bring that today.

In truth, it wasn’t Barty’s best tennis: there were too many skittish shots, a first-serve percentage of just 57%, and even a missed backhand volley on an open court. But in light of the occasion and all those Aussie-Aussie-Aussie expectations, it was an emotional finish and it capped off a dominating performance throughout the tournament.

Barty swept the draw in controlled play with his precise and powerful first serve, crisp backhand and versatile forehand. She won 82% of her first service points against Collins, an aggressive returner, repeatedly doing wonders with her sliced ​​serve in the court of the two and fighting through fragile patches to find angles and lines when she needed it the most.

Barty hasn’t beaten a top-10 ranked player in any of her three Grand Slam singles wins. It’s not his fault, of course, and there were seven other top-10 players in Melbourne this year.

Collins will surely harbor some regrets on the second set. She was in firm control at one point and seemed to relax under duress as Barty tightened up, double faulting twice to go down 1-5. But despite Collins being two points away from winning the set in three different matches, she couldn’t close the deal as the near-full crowd only gave Barty positive reinforcement, meeting Collins’ mistakes with cheers and its winners with polite applause.

Collins was unusually subdued early on, though she was soon pumping her fist and shouting her trademark “Come on!” But she said she battled back pain on that deep run in Melbourne, which explains why she stood during the shifts instead of sitting, and neither her body nor her nerves failed. were able to support her in the second set.

“She started pushing me a little more on the court. I think I had issues being able to fully rotate on some of my shots to be able to get my shots where I needed them,” Collins said. “It was really unfortunate, but I did everything I could, I tried to get through it, I failed.”

Collins delivered an eloquent and moving speech, bursting into tears as he thanked his mentor, Marty Schneider, doing justice to the occasion and to Barty.

“It’s been great to watch her rise through the ranks to #1 and live her dream,” Collins said.

It was a road game for Collins, but she played a lot of it in her long and difficult climb from Florida’s public parks to a Grand Slam final.

Collins, 28, was a two-time NCAA singles champion at the University of Virginia and didn’t turn fully professional until she was 22, in contrast to Barty, who began her professional career at 14 years old.

Collins will move up to 10th in the world rankings after her race and become the top-ranked American for the first time. But she couldn’t stop Barty from giving Chris O’Neil company. O’Neil, the last Australian to win the Australian Open in singles was an unranked player ranked outside the top 100 who never made another deep run at a major tournament after winning in 1978.

Barty has now cemented her place as the highest ranked female player in the world and has won her three Grand Slam singles titles on three different surfaces, clay at Roland Garros, grass at Wimbledon and hard court at Melbourne. The only Grand Slam singles title she has yet to win is the US Open, although she won the women’s doubles title in New York in 2018 with her American partner, CoCo Vandeweghe.

At 5-foot-5, Barty isn’t physically imposing in a sport increasingly populated by taller players like the 5-foot-10 Collins. But Barty is an all-out threat, able to adjust his game on the fly and hit a particularly wide variety of shots.

When she came back tennis in February 2016, she did so with a new trainer, Craig Tyzzer. They formed quite a partnership and worked to grow Barty’s game while maintaining his sanity and enthusiasm.

She did not compete on tour for most of 2020 due to coronavirus restrictions, and after her been successful in 2021 she was tired and homesick and opted to return to Australia after losing at the third round from the US Open instead of staying abroad and making the WTA Finals in Mexico. Despite the similarity between the hard courts used in Melbourne and New York, Tyzzer surprisingly said on Saturday that he doesn’t think Barty will win the US Open unless the tournament switches to using heavier balls that are better suited. to his game, which relies heavily on spin.

But the decision to take a break certainly paid off at the start of 2022. She is 11-0, winning the title in Adelaide and now, more importantly, seven matches at the Australian Open, giving the Australians a well-deserved boost after almost two years of pandemic shutdowns and restrictions.

“It can’t be easy playing with the weight of your country on your shoulders,” former Australian Open star Todd Woodbridge said at the awards ceremony.

But Barty’s shoulders were strong enough, and the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup was soon shimmering in her deft hands.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Ashleigh Barty wins Australian Open women's singles title
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