Karolina Pliskova netted a backhand into the net. Ashleigh Barty, who had won the junior title 10 years ago in Wimbledon, sank to her knees. All the heartbreak related to coronavirus travels, the two-year break in which she became a cricketer, all evaporated at that one moment. Ashleigh Barty was now the Wimbledon champion and she had done it in a tough way. In the battle of first-time finalists, it was Barty’s nerves and excellence that helped her become the first Australian since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1971 to win Wimbledon.
There is something deeper in Barty’s win. Currently, in Australia, there is a trend to celebrate the contributions of the indigenous population. The Australian cricket team had done it during the series against India. Barty, just like Goolagong, belongs to an indigenous tribe. In Barty’s case, it is the Ngaragu tribe.
The success of Goolagong and Barty is a celebration of the indigenous population of Australia. Goolagong’s success in Wimbledon 2021 opened the doors for indigenous Australians to dream. Barty’s success, after all the upheaval in the last couple of years, will lay a solid foundation.
Barty had already achieved tremendous success when she won the junior Wimbledon in 2011. But, rather than achieve further success, she took a break. The reason was that she wanted to refresh her mind as she was not enjoying her Tennis. In that period from 2014 to 2016, Barty played Twenty20 cricket in the Women’s Big Bash League for the Brisbane Heat. She achieved limited success. But, it was in Tennis where her heart lay. She came back.
Barty was making big strides and she achieved her glory in the 2019 French Open. She defeated Marketa Vondrousova to become the first Australian since Margaret Court to win the French Open. A very elite list indeed.
2020 proved to be a mixed year for her. She did not travel for 11 months due to the travel schedule being wrecked due to the coronavirus pandemic. In that period, she even won a gold tournament at home. In addition to cricket, golf and tennis. The added benefit that she had with that golf tournament win was meeting her future partner.
The break during 2020 seemed to have refreshed her. She won four out of the five tournaments that she played in. Her success rate of 76.2 percent is phenomenal, with Serena Williams having a higher winning percentage. Since 2017, she has won 12 titles which is on par with the best in the business.
Many analysts were convinced that Barty would not make it to Wimbledon. She suffered a hip injury during the French Open. It was by sheer determination and miracle that she got to Wimbledon in the first place. Barty was in fine form throughout the tournament. On a surface that she did not like from the beginning due to lack of exposure, Barty’s game evolved to be strong enough for grass.
In the final, she remembered the moment when she had reached rock bottom. At the age of 18, she was depressed, lonely and on the cusp of quitting Tennis. It was a message from Goolagong which read, “Hey Darl. Good decision. Go wet a line.” Wet a line means to go fishing. It was this advice that helped Barty free herself from all the mental tension.
In the final, you could see it. Barty wore the same attire that Goolagong had worn in her 1971 conquest for Wimbledon. Barty held her nerve, the expectations were tremendous. But, she overcame them all and won Wimbledon. “I just hope I made Evonne proud,” Barty said after she won Wimbledon and got the Venus Rosewater Dish.
This was the first time that the Wimbledon women’s singles final went to three sets since 2012. Barty became the first top seed since Serena Williams in 2016 to win the Wimbledon title and the fourth to have won both the Junior and Senior Wimbledon titles.
Things can only get better for Barty in the coming years. She can overhaul her mentor’s tally of seven Grand Slam titles. The way how she has carried herself on the court and off it makes her one of the finest ambassadors currently in modern tennis. Things can only get better for Barty. She may be celebrating it low-key, but the party is only beginning for Ashleigh Barty.