Ash Barty beats Danielle Collins, wins the home country crown

Ash Barty, Ashleigh Barty

At what point did Ash Barty turn it around? Seven years ago, she quit, and she stopped playing tennis. She went back into Australia, and she put her rackets down. She had lost so many matches.

She was exhausted, mentally. So she decided to play cricket instead, which she likes a lot. However, after one year, it turned on the light. And she started to practice tennis frequently. When she felt that she was stroking on court, it was time to return at the WTA in 2016. It was slow, but better, each month. Her one-handed backhand was sharp, her forehand was powerful, her first serve was strong, and her return was focused.

The Aussie is now in full flight. She won Roland Garros on clay, Wimbledon on grass, and now at the Australian Open on the hardcourts, joining Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal with majors on each surface. She knows all of it now, and she is the best player out there, hands down.

Maybe this year, she can win the 2022 US Open, too.

“They are all very different, all very different stages of my life. 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,” she said. “It’s just been an incredible journey over this past 20 years of hitting a tennis ball but particularly the last five or six years in this second phase of my career.

“I think being able to surround myself with amazing people who have invested so much time and effort and love into my career, and for them to be able to support me and to be able to experience it with me is really cool. I think our drive and determination and passion has always been the same right from the start. 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,.”

Barty did not lose a set, in seven matches over the past two weeks. In the final, she beat Danielle Collins 6-3 7-6(2). Still, Collins will rise to No. 10 and the top American woman.

The American was sharp in the second set, up 5-1, and she was blasting the ball. Collins can attack all the time, but she can miss, and perhaps it would have been a good idea to stay in the rallies, before it is time to rip it. But she did not, and all of a sudden, her first serves went astray. The errors came again, and Barty rose up. Her forehand was lethal, and her backhand was steady, with her slice, her spin and flat two-handers. Barty won four straight to even the set at 5-5.

“She did a great job on her service games in runs. She’d make a lot of first serves, and for the most part I was having to chip returns and just trying to find a way to get into points,” Barty said. “I think when I was able to be more aggressive, that was a change, and I was able to dominate with my forehand a bit more, particularly from being 5-1 down in the second set, I just found a lot more forehands and tried to work harder with my feet and take half chances and create forehands even if they probably weren’t there, and I wasn’t too concerned if I was going to miss them. It was more trying to change the look of the match than the outcome of the individual points.”

In the tiebreak, Barty had no fear, going for winner after winner. Staying very cool, she as found a way to keep her focus.

“As Australians, we’re extremely lucky to have the tennis history and the rich history that we do, particularly here at the Australian Open. But across all Grand Slams, we’ve had champions that have stemmed back years and years and years and have really set the platform for us to come through and try and do what we do and try and create our own path,” she said. “I know them more as a person. Those people that come to mind, Pat Rafter and Evonne (Goolagong), in the way that they handled themselves on the court, there’s just no one better. I think I’m a very, very small part of that. I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing myself, but to be a very small part of an amazing history in tennis as an Australian is really, really neat.”