At Roland Garros in 2019, it was disbelief. At Wimbledon in 2021, the tears flowed. And at Australian Open 2022, she was fired up.
Three different major titles. Three distinctly different reactions.
One impressively complete tennis player.
Ash Barty cemented herself as the dominant player in the women’s game with a 6-3 7-6(2) victory over the gallant Danielle Collins, sending Rod Laver Arena into raptures and Australia wild as she became the first local player to win the women’s singles title in 44 years.
She has won her last 22 consecutive sets – she did not drop any at Melbourne Park – and is projected to move more than 2600 points clear of Aryna Sabalenka, now ranked a distant second on the WTA ladder.
Barty has won 12 of her past 14 finals, including her last four straight. And as the reigning Wimbledon and Australian Open champion, she holds two of the sport’s four most prestigious trophies.
But of the myriad milestones she notched on Saturday night, perhaps the most notable was the fact she joins an exclusive group of active players who have won Grand Slam titles on all surfaces – clay, grass and hard courts.
The other members of that group? Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic.
“I feel very humble to be in such a select group. To be honest, I don’t really feel like I belong with those champions of our sport,” the 25-year-old said.
“It’s amazing to be able to have this experience and this opportunity on three different surfaces and be really consistent across the board. Ultimately that was one of the biggest challenges that (childhood coach) Jim (Joyce) set out for me when I was young, was to be a complete player and be really consistent across all surfaces.
“So to have a Grand Slam title on each surface is pretty amazing. I never probably thought it would ever happen to me.”
Before Barty spoke with the media following her watershed victory, her coach, Craig Tyzzer, had sat in the same seat.
He revealed his surprise that victories at Roland Garros and Wimbledon had preceded Barty’s hard-court breakthrough.
“I actually always felt she’s a better hard-court player. I mean, she loves grass … But I always thought her first win would be, in a Grand Slam, on a hard court. But typical for her she proved me wrong,” he said.
“It’s amazing that she’s been able to do it. I think we’ve all got to sit back and just look at what she’s been able to do on different surfaces and just her ability to play the level of tennis that she does.
“I mean, sometimes I’m just in awe of it.”
While ultimate success on a hard court, at her home Slam, came third in the major sequence, this was arguably her finest, most complete and most resounding victory of all of them.
She coasted through her first six rounds, dropping just 21 games to become the first Australian woman to reach an AO singles final since Wendy Turnbull in 1980.
Only the legendary Serena and Venus Williams have conceded fewer games en route to a Grand Slam final this century.
In the title match, she was pushed hard by the hyper-aggressive, ultra-competitive Collins, who on Monday will become the newest member of the world’s top 10.
But trailing 5-1 in the second set, Barty recovered thanks to a well-rounded arsenal of weapons – her vaunted serve, viciously heavy forehand, exacting slice backhand, and, in the subsequent tiebreak, fabulous athleticism that ended with a leaping overhead winner to put the result almost certainly beyond doubt.
Barty appears to be playing even more freely since claiming the Wimbledon title in July last year, a childhood dream that brought fourth an uncharacteristic level of emotion as she celebrated on Centre Court.
Speaking on Channel 9 prior to the final, wheelchair tennis legend Dylan Alcott said Barty was the most relaxed he had ever seen her.
Barty has gone a stellar 18-2 following that triumph at the All England Club, and throughout the fortnight at Melbourne Park she expertly managed the external pressures that come with competing, and executing, in front of an adoring home crowd.
“It was a little bit surreal. I think I didn’t quite know what to do or what to feel,” Barty said of sealing championship point with a sizzling forehand winner.
“I think just being able to let out a little bit of emotion, which is a little bit unusual for me, and I think being able to celebrate with everyone who was there in the crowd, the energy was incredible tonight.
“I think it just kind of all came out at once, and yeah, (it was) a really, really special moment.”
Barty said she appreciates her three Grand Slam singles triumphs in different ways, given each came in different stages of her life.
And those triumphs have helped fuel her hunger for new goals – among which could be a US Open singles title to complete her Grand Slam set.
“I think 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,” Barty said.
“I think our drive and determination and passion has always been the same right from the start.
“(And) I think finding what we love to do and being able to then go out and compete and try and break down some of the barriers and try and achieve new things is really exciting for us always.”
Source: Matt Trollope