Ash Barty has won the Australian Open women’s final 6-3, 7-6 (7-2) after an incredible second set comeback – breaking a 44-year hoodoo for home-grown talent.
The 25-year-old world No. 1 showed too much class for American Danielle Collins at Melbourne Park’s Rod Laver Arena, using her precision to counteract the American underdog’s power hitting.
The Brisbane-born phenom took control in the opening set – winning over 90 per cent of her first service games and stifling Collins’ baseline hitting with her backhand slice.
But Collins put the pressure right back on the Aussie talent at the beginning of the second set, breaking Barty’s serve and turning the match on its head.
Just when it appeared Collins would level the contest at a set all, Barty clawed her way back from 5-1 down to bring the second set to a tie break.
With the crowd cheering on the Aussie, Barty held her nerve and took the tie break 7-2 claiming her first Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.
To cap off her famous victory she was presented with the trophy by her childhood hero Evonne Goolagong – a fellow Indigenous tennis star who won 13 Grand Slam titles.
The drought is over! Ash Barty erupts in celebration after becoming first Aussie to win the Australian Open in 44 years
Ash Barty celebrates after winning the Australian Open women’s title in Melbourne
Going down with a fight: Danielle Collins was up 5-1 in the second set before losing in a tie break to Australia’s queen of tennis
Collins put the pressure right back on the Aussie talent at the beginning of the second set – breaking Barty’s serve – but couldn’t hold on
Aussie fans packed into the arena at 80 per cent capacity under Victoria’s Covid rules – roaring Barty on as she walked on court.
There were a sea of celebrities on hand to cheer her on including swimming great Ian Thorpe, actor Russel Crowe and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
Australia’s queen of the court breezed through her competition at this year’s tournament, winning all six lead-up matches in straight sets.
In contrast, the 27th seed had some hard fought battles on the way to the final but blasted through her opponents with her massive serve and trademark power hitting from the baseline.
‘This is just a dream come true for me, I am so proud to be an Aussie,’ Barty said.
‘I am so lucky to be here tonight and have so many people that love and support me. It’s pretty bloody special that my mum, dad and sisters are here.’
I’m an incredible fortunate and lucky girl to have so much love in my corner. We start together right from the start in this second part of our career. We did it all together and no one has changed from our team.
‘I love you guys.’
Barty has now won three Grand Slams on three different surfaces, adding to her victories at the French Open and Wimbledon.
Ash Barty poses with the trophy after victory in her women’s singles final match against Danielle Collins
To cap off Barty’s famous victory she was presented with the trophy by her childhood hero Evonne Goolagong (cente) – a fellow Indigenous tennis star who won 13 Grand Slam titles
Danielle Collins wipes away tears as she accepts her runner up trophy at Rod Laver Arena
In the lead up the final, Barty’s former coach Jim Joyce revealed a text from tennis great Serena Williams helped the superstar make her comeback and set her on the path to the Grand Slam Championship.
Six years ago Barty walked away from a promising tennis career, which included wining the junior Wimbledon title, in 2014.
She left the professional circuit due to burnout, and turned her attention to helping to teach kids tennis.
She moved to Melbourne and dabbled with a career in cricket before being dragged back to the court.
Joyce shared that it was a text from Williams the prompted her change of heart.
Mr Joyce – who had been teaching children tennis alongside Barty – said he had long been waiting to breach the subject of a comeback to Barty when Williams reached out herself.
‘Ash was in a restaurant I think and Serena sent her a message saying ‘you are too good a player to retire … you have to come back,’ he told The Courier-Mail.
The Australian Open crowd at Rod Laver Arena for the women’s final was at 80 per cent capacity due to Covid rules
Pictured: Russell Crowe watches the Women’s Singles Final match between Ashleigh Barty of Australia and Danielle Collins
Former Australian swimmer and Olympian Ian Thorpe (right) is seen in the crowd ahead of the Women’s singles final between Ashleigh Barty and Danielle Collins
Pictured: Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg watches on with Tennis Australia CEO Jane Hrdlicka during the Women’s singles final between Ashleigh Barty and Danielle Collins
He explained that while he thought Barty’s retirement would be a ‘waste ‘ it wasn’t his place to broach the subject with the young tennis star.
‘I loved having her around. She was a bloody good coach. But I said to people at the time if she didn’t return it would be the greatest waste Australian tennis has ever seen.
‘That comment was proved right. I mean, have a look…’
Now Barty is proving her former coach right.
How Ash Barty became a tennis superstar
Barty is the youngest child of Robert, a Ngarigo Indigenous Australian, and Josie, the daughter of English immigrants, and was born and raised in Ipswich, Queensland.
Her two sisters, Sara and Ali, played netball but Barty first picked up a racquet aged four.
This was because ‘didn’t want to play what she thought was a girls’ game’, her father told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Joyce took Barty under his wing after noticing she had a natural talent for the sport.
Barty was five when she arrived at Joyce’s court at the West Brisbane Tennis Centre and was soon hitting with players twice her age.
‘The thing that stood out was – her hand and eye coordination was amazing – but it was her focus and concentration for that age,’ Joyce said.
‘She was equal to any of the nine and 10-year-olds, actually, as far as that goes.
‘She was outstanding.’
Fans cheer during the Women’s Singles Final match between Ash Barty and Danielle Collins
Pictured: Ash Barty desperately reaches out for a backhand slice during the women’s Australian Open women’s final
Pictured: Danielle Collins plays a forehand in her women’s singles final match
Joyce said Barty’s talents as a sportsperson were far-reaching and coming from a family of golfers she was also decent with a club.
‘She just picked up things so quickly,’ Joyce said.
‘Ash would have made a fantastic golfer… you should have seen her on a golf course.
And she just wanted to play tennis, she didn’t want to play team games.
‘Her sisters were playing netball, she just wanted to play tennis.’
By the age of nine, Barty was training with boys six years older than her, and at 12 she was playing against adult men.
The teenager was then sent abroad, where she competed in international tours without her parents at the age of 14.
Danielle Collins of the US reacts after a point against Australia’s Ashleigh Barty during their women’s singles final
Ash Barty looked in control during the first set of the women’s Australian Open final, taking it from Collins 6-3
Danielle Collins of United States celebrates winning a point in her Women’s Singles Final match against Ashleigh Barty
Barty recalled her first international tour in Europe where she was riddled with homesickness.
She would phone her parents crying almost every evening, but despite the struggle she managed to power through the competitions.
The 14-year-old was also invited to Las Vegas as a member of the Adidas player development team where she was given the privileged opportunity to hang out with tennis legends Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi.
‘This trip has given me a lot of confidence and self-belief and has made me realise how I need to work and what sacrifices I must make in order to be a great tennis player,’ Barty said at the time.
At the age of 15, she hit a range of new milestones, having competed at the Australian Open, won high-level Grade 1 events in Malaysia and Belgium, and secured her only Grand Slam junior title at Wimbledon.
She became the second Australian to win the girls’ singles event after Debbie Freeman in 1980, and the first Australian girl to win a junior Grand Slam title since Jelena Dokic at the 1998 US Open.
Speaking to her Wimbledon victory, Barty said: ‘It was just too much – it was too much beyond tennis, beyond playing the game’.
Barty has now won three Grand Slams adding to her victories at the French Open and Wimbledon
Australia’s Ashleigh Barty hits a return against Danielle Collins during their women’s singles final match
She found herself approaching a crossroads, unsure of her future prospects on the court amid the mounting media exposure and pressure to succeed.
When she was 16, Barty lived alone in an apartment in Melbourne’s South Yarra.
During the season where she turned 17, Barty only spent 27 days at home during the calendar year, and in 2014 following the US Open, she made the critical decision to take a break from tennis.
Her father Robert said he suffers from bipolar, manic depression and obsessive compulsive disorder, and believed he passed depression onto his daughter.
‘It was too much too quickly for me as I’ve been travelling from quite a young age,’ she said in a later interview about quitting the sport.
‘I wanted to experience life as a normal teenage girl and have some normal experiences.’
Ashleigh Barty is captured during her serve in the final of the women’s Australian Open final
Danielle Collins is captured during her serve in the final of the women’s Australian Open final
But with sport clearly running in her blood, Barty instead took up cricket and enjoyed a degree of success.
Barty joined the Queensland Fire squad in the women’s national league, with coach Andy Richards recalling he was instantly impressed with her skills.
‘Her skill from the first time she picked up a bat was outstanding from a coach’s perspective – she never missed a ball in her first session,’ he said.
But after a successful two years of professional cricket – which saw her play for a range of teams at high profile events including in the Women’s Big Bash League with the Brisbane Heat – Barty made the bold return to tennis in February 2016.
The reunion with tennis came after Barty went to watch her doubles teammate, Casey Dellacqua compete in the Sydney International.
Dellacqua forced her on to an empty court in the late afternoon and Barty realised it was time for her to return to her first love.
The crowd at Melbourne Park’s Rod Laver arena were firmly on the side of local hero Ash Barty
Ashleigh Barty stretches out to return serve against Collins in their women’s Australian Open final
‘I used one of her racquets and I just said, ”This is me. This is what I should be doing”,’ she said.
She is the National Indigenous Tennis Ambassador for Tennis Australia, and calls herself a ‘very proud Indigenous woman’.
‘Giving back to my community is very important to me and I hope to inspire many more Indigenous kids to get active and enjoy their tennis,’ she said.
Barty is engaged to her boyfriend, PGA Trainee professional Garry Kissick, who she has been with since 2017.
Ash Barty (pictured making her way to centre court) broke a 44-year hoodoo by becoming the first home-grown talent to win the Australian Open
Ashe Barty (right) and Danielle Collins (left) pose for a photograph ahead of their women’s singles final match
Danielle Collins of the US waves as she arrives to face Australia’s Ashleigh Barty in the women’s singles final match
Barty looked a class above in her earlier matches at Melbourne Park.
And her opponents are clearly feeling the heat.
‘You feel pretty helpless,’ said US star Jessica Pegula, after she lost to Barty in straight sets in the quarter-finals on Tuesday night.
‘I think that when she gets into a rhythm…her game just kind of picks you apart a little bit, and it can be really frustrating because you don’t feel like you can get a lot of free points, there’s really not much you can do.
‘She just doesn’t give you any free points.’