To describe Ash Barty as an all-rounder player is to do her a bit of a disservice as she is a complete player, both physically and mentally, with so much more than meets the eye, particularly now that she has shown she can win on all surfaces this game has to offer by adding the Australian Open title to that of Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
This fortnight, seven times I got to walk out onto a beautiful court with incredible fans and try and do the best I can do. Now to be able to have this part of my dream achieved is amazing and, I think, I have to really understand that that came from the processes that we put in with my team, and the people that are around me because, without them, I wouldn’t be half the person that I am. Ash Barty
While Danielle Collins gave her more trouble than all her previous 6 opponents at Melbourne Park had done, Barty would not be denied her destiny, which was to win the AO title after a drought of 44 years since the last Australian, Chris O’Neil, was able to do so, back in 1978.
She roared into the night after her 6-3 7-6(2) over the fierce American, who had built a 5-1 lead in the second set only to be pegged back by the tenacious Aussie, who never says never, and believes completely in her own capabilities.
“It was a little bit surreal,” she admitted afterwards. “I think I didn’t quite know what to do or what to feel…
“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, being able to understand how much work my team and I have done behind the scenes, and over the last few years, to get to this point, to be able to have this opportunity was really special.
“I think, it just kind of all came out at once [in that roar].”
The great and the good had gathered in Rod Laver Arena, with the man after whom the stadium is named joined by Hollywood superstar Russell Crowe, and Sydney Olympic heroes Ian Thorpe and Cathy Freeman to name but a few.
A record TV audience also tuned in to watch, with peak viewing figures of 4.2 million people in Australia, which made it the most watched women’s singles final in the country since records began in 1999, while the worldwide audience also looked on.
Barty has been the World No 1 since September 2019 and, having begun last season with question marks over the legitimacy of that position after the Covid-19 ranking hiatus, it is now clear that she is not only the best player in the world by some distance, but she is also now an icon of the sport.
The 25-year-old, who toasted her win with a beer on Australian TV, has always shrugged off talk of the expectation on her shoulders.
“I think the expectation was that I would always come out and give my best, and that’s all I’ve ever done,” she told reporters. “I have been close before but, I think, now that we’ve been able to achieve this, I think, you guys don’t need to talk about it any more.
“You were the ones who added fuel to the fire because, for us, it was just the same processes, and the same enjoyment, regardless of where we’re playing in the world, what round it is.
“That has no impact on how much I enjoy my tennis, and go out there, or how much I try and compete.
“This fortnight, seven times I got to walk out onto a beautiful court with incredible fans and try and do the best I can do.
“Now to be able to have this part of my dream achieved is amazing and, I think, I have to really understand that that came from the processes that we put in with my team, and the people that are around me because, without them, I wouldn’t be half the person that I am.”
There are so many lessons in those words that many will not only relish but learn from, particularly those with aspirations in this sport.
Barty’s coach Craig Tyzzer has guided her since she took her first steps back onto the pro tour in 2016 after leaving the sport as a teenager.
“There’s a massive sense of pride in Ash, and her ability to do what she’s done,” he said. “Sometimes I just think I’m not sure how she walks out there and does it, with the expectations, with the nation right behind her and everyone wanting her to win.
“It’s an amazing feat. It’s phenomenal. To be part of it is amazing, but I’m thrilled every day to work with Ash.
“What she does never surprises me, but I’m just glad that I’m part of it.”
Another key inspiration in Barty’s life is 4-time Australian Open champion Evonne Goolagong Cawley, with whom she shares her Aboriginal heritage.
A proud Ngarigo woman, Barty celebrated her ‘dream come true’ alongside her Indigenous idol and mentor, who made a surprise appearance at Melbourne Park to watch the final.
Being handed the trophy by Cawley made the occasion even more treasured for Barty, who is the second Indigenous AO champion, after her.
“To be able to experience that together on such a big occasion, on such a beautiful court, and in a tournament that means so much to both of us,” Barty said, who thought Goolagong Cawley would not be able to make it for the final.
“It was really special just to be able to give her a hug. It’s the first time I’ve seen her in 12 months.
“I think it was really nice to have her there, just as someone to lean on when I wasn’t really sure what to do.
“She’s an amazing human being, and I’m very, very lucky to be able to call her a friend. Very lucky to be able to give her a hug in some of the biggest moments in my life.”
Barty loves to hug, and exudes warmth to one and all off the court, which makes her a perfect ambassador of the game.
She has now not only cemented her position as the best player in the world, but has also become only the second active woman to have won Grand Slam titles on three different surfaces, which puts her in a very elite group of five, alongside only Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
“I feel very humble to be in such a select group,” she said. “To be honest, I don’t really feel like I belong with those champions of our sport.
“I’m still very much learning, and trying to refine my craft, and try and learn every single day, and get better and better.
“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, and be able to play on 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.”
The versatility in Barty’s game is what sets her apart from her rivals, but Tyzzer does not expect her to be able to complete the career Grand Slam by winning the US Open, the way things currently stand.
“The US Open really needs to change the ball for the girls,” said Tyzzer, the WTA Tour coach of the year in 2019. “The fact they still use a different ball for guys and girls, it’s a terrible ball for someone like Ash.
“If they keep that ball the same, no one like Ash will win that tournament.
“It’s the only tournament that has separate balls for the guys and girls. So if they don’t change the balls, she won’t win the U.S. Open.”
At the US Open, men use slightly heavier balls than the women.
Tyzzer added that after Barty won Wimbledon last year, he always felt that her best tennis would come on hard courts because she grew up on the surface in Brisbane, but her first two Grand Slam titles came on the red clay of Roland Garros and on the grass at Wimbledon.
“It’s amazing that she’s been able to do it. It’s pretty impressive,” he said. “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.”
A lot of Barty’s success is attributable to her happy home life and the man behind that was leading the chorus of applause on Saturday night from the player box where her fiancée Garry Kissick was overcome with joy when she won the title on Rod Laver Arena for the first time.
An aspiring professional golfer who works as an irrigation technician for the greens of the Brookwater Golf & Country Club in Brisbane, Kissick has brought happiness to Barty’s life in recent years after the duo met at the golf club where he works back in 2016.
Barty is eager to keep her private life out of the spotlight, but she did speak about her relationship with Kissick in a recent interview with Vogue.
“He’s extremely patient with me, and when we met he didn’t know a lot about tennis,” said Barty. “He’s kind of been thrown in the very deep end in understanding what the tour is like, and how much we’re apart, but he’s the best person to have around in the sense of switching off from tennis, and being able to bring the fun and laughter.
“I certainly wouldn’t want to share this journey with anyone else.”
Saturday’s triumph for the 25-year-old Queenslander was hailed as the ideal end to a tournament that had seen its build-up blighted by the controversy over Novak Djokovic’s visa issues, and the 20-time Grand Slam champion’s eventual deportation.
Barty has won her last 22 consecutive sets, not dropping 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 rankings.
She has won 12 of her past 14 finals, including her last 4 straight, and is now both the reigning Wimbledon and Australian Open champion, two of the sport’s four most prestigious trophies.
As Barty basks in glory, spare a thought for the vanquished, highly aggressive and super competitive Collins, who pushed her so hard and becomes the newest member of the world’s top 10 on Monday.
Barty has gone a stellar 18-2 in match wins since her win 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.
“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.”