It was only fitting that guts and determination and a stunning comeback would be the theme of Ash Barty’s drought-breaking Australian Open victory.
As the nation held its breath, the world No.1 showed why she is the most dominant* force in women’s tennis, finding a way to overcome feisty* American Danielle Collins 6-3 7-6.
Barty was down 1-5 in the second set but the Queenslander wouldn’t lie down. Instead she found a way to claw back before racing through the tie-breaker to end 44 years of local heartache at the Open.
The normally reserved* Barty let out a scream after she sent another booming* crosscourt forehand past Collins to claim her third grand slam* title in 87 absorbing* minutes on Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on Saturday night.
“As an Aussie, the most important part of this tournament is being able to share it with so many people and you guys in the crowd have been nothing shy of exceptional,” Barty said after her stunning victory.
“This crowd is one of the most fun I have ever been in front of – you guys brought me so much joy today.
“This is just a dream come true for me. I am so proud to be an Aussie.”
Just like Olympic gold medal runner Cathy Freeman did in the 400m at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, Barty embraced* the enormous pressure and expectation, turning it into a career-defining* performance.
The final wasn’t like the other six matches Barty played at this year’s Australian Open. She had been barely challenged by her opponents on her way to the final, not dropping a set and only losing one service game for the entire tournament.
But after a subdued* start, which saw Barty take the first set comfortably, Collins fed off the emotion generated by the pro-Barty crowd to stun the locals by dominating the early part of the second set.
Collins, the 27th seed*, raced to a 5-1 lead in the second set, constantly pumping herself up by shouting to the crowd, whereas Barty again showed no emotion.
But there is a reason the Australian has been the world’s best player for the past three years. She doesn’t give up. While all of the momentum* was with her opponent, Barty turned to being a problem-solver and started her comeback.
It rattled Collins who started complaining about the crowd noise during points and before she knew it the set was back to 5-5.
Then once the match went to a tie-break, Barty was rolling and there was no stopping her.
Barty is now only one major* away from the career grand slam*, with the US Open the only trophy missing from her cabinet which already includes the 2019 French Open and 2021 Wimbledon trophies.
Barty was presented with the Australian Open trophy, which is called the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup, by her hero and friend, Evonne Goolagong Cawley – a four-time Australian Open winner from the 1970s.
The crowd that watched Barty’s January 29 victory also included Indigenous sporting hero Cathy Freeman.
“Looking up at the end to see Cathy, she is an inspiration, and inspiration to so many people all around the globe. For our heritage and family, she is just the best. To share that tonight with Evonne Goolagong and Cathy, I will never forget it,” Barty said.
Barty, who paid tribute to her coach and support team in her victory speech, said winning was “about the memories more than the trophies”.
“We have had a hell of a month and now it is time to celebrate the fact that we had not only success as a team but we made so many memories along the way and grew so much,” she said.
“For us it is about celebrating the small things. As well as a pretty cool thing tonight.”
Later that night on Rod Laver Arena, Australian pair Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis beat fellow Aussies Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell 7-6 6-4 to take the Australian Open men’s doubles title.
And on Sunday night, Spain’s Rafael Nadal defeated Russian Daniil Medvedev to win an epic* five-set men’s singles final.
Nadal’s victory, which saw him fight back after losing the first two sets to win 2-6 6-7 6-4 6-4 7-5, made him the most successful player in the game’s history. He now has 21 grand slam titles, one ahead of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
Neither Federer or Djokovic competed at the Australian Open. Federer is injured and Djokovic was ordered out of Australia just before the Open began. The federal government requires everyone coming into the country at the moment to be vaccinated for Covid-19 and it argued in court that Djokovic should not be allowed to stay and compete in the Australian Open because he is not vaccinated and because of his views against vaccination.
GET YOUR ASH BARTY HERO POSTER
- dominant: having power and influence over others
- feisty: determined, not afraid to fight
- reserved: tends not to show emotions or reveal thoughts
- booming: fast, strong
- grand slam: the four major tennis tournaments – Australian Open, US Open, French Open and Wimbledon
- absorbing: very interesting
- embraced: accepted willingly and enthusiastically
- career-defining: a moment or event that is very important in making someone successful in their job or in deciding how they will be remembered
- subdued: quite, lacking strength or energy
- seed: ranking for the tournament
- momentum: the force that drives something forward
- major: refers to the four major tennis tournaments – Australian Open, US Open, French Open and Wimbledon
- career grand slam: achieving wins in all four major tournaments during her career
- epic: heroic and grand in scale
- Who did Ash Barty beat in the final?
- What was the score?
- Who handed the winner’s trophy to Ash?
- Which other Indigenous sporting hero was in the crowd to watch the match?
- Which two Australians won the men’s doubles final?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
Find some video of the match between Ash Barty and Danielle Collins. Play the video with the sound on mute. Give your own commentary, creating excitement and describing how the match is playing out.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Health and Physical Education; Drama
Set a timer for 5 minutes. In that time, brainstorm as many adjectives and adverbs (describing words) as you can that apply to this match. See how many amazing vocabulary choices you can come up with. When you are done, repeat the above commentary exercise. Can you make your commentary more interesting by using some of the adjectives and adverbs that you brainstormed?
Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Health and Physical Education; Drama
I’ve always wanted to know
If you had the opportunity to talk to Ash Barty and ask her five questions, what would you ask?
Come up with five different questions. Challenge yourself to use different question stems (question opener words) to write your questions, and don’t forget to end with a question mark.