Savouring her first Wimbledon singles triumph, Ash Barty revealed that the hip injury she suffered in Paris was more serious than she realised, but that she had played The Championships pain free.
I’ve worked so hard my whole career with my team, and with people that mean the most to me, to try and achieve my goals and my dreams. To be able to do that today was incredible. There was some ups and downs. There were runs of momentum. The challenge today was trying to control my service games. I wasn’t able to do that every time, but I felt like I was building in the right way. Trying to serve out the match in the second set, I gave Karolina a look-in. She grabbed it with both hands. Ash Barty
“Being able to play here at Wimbledon was nothing short of a miracle,” Barty revealed in her post-match press conference. “They kept a lot of cards close to their chest. It just proved how much we were against the odds.
“To be playing pain-free through this event was incredible. Certainly now chatting to them it looked a lot less likely than I felt. It’s been an incredible month.”
No wonder she was emotional.
Five weeks ago, the World No 1 retired from her second round match against Magda Linette at the French Open with pain in her left hip, having initially felt a twinge that had worsened, and it then threatened to derail her campaign.
Barty sought help and rested for 20 days, staying away from the tennis court and hoping she would be fit enough for Wimbledon, but playing no warm-up events on grass.
Her support team contacted medical experts in Australia, who recommended it was best for her not to play The Championships and, controversially, they decided not to tell her until she entered the locker room on Saturday afternoon as the newly-crowned champion after her 3-set victory over Karolina Pliskova.
“There weren’t too many radiologists in Australia who had seen my injury,” Barty continued.
“In a sense, it was a two-month injury. Being able to play here at Wimbledon was nothing short of a miracle.
“I think them not telling me, that just proved how much we were against the odds.
“It’s funny, you can think positively, you can plan, and sometimes the stars do align and you can chase after your dreams.”
This is the biggest moment of the 25-year-old’s career as she adds the Wimbledon title to the 2019 French title she could not defend, and the junior title she won here 10 years ago, one of only a few champions to achieve the double.
Barty failed to serve out the match at 6-5 in the second set, overcome by nerves with the finish line in sight, but one of her greatest skills is her ability to figure her way out of trouble, and she quickly settled to ensure she came out on top in the decider.
“It is the most incredible feeling I think I’ve ever experienced on a tennis court,” Barty said. “There was certainly disbelief.
“I’ve worked so hard my whole career with my team, and with people that mean the most to me, to try and achieve my goals and my dreams. To be able to do that today was incredible.
“There was some ups and downs. There were runs of momentum.
“The challenge today was trying to control my service games. I wasn’t able to do that every time, but I felt like I was building in the right way.
“Trying to serve out the match in the second set, I gave Karolina a look-in. She grabbed it with both hands.
“Being able to reset at the start of the third was really important, just for me to continue to turn up each and every point.
“That’s all I was really focusing on, just trying to do the best I could in every given point, regardless of what the scoreline was.”
Pliskova, 29, remains the best active female player without a major trophy, but her run this fortnight demonstrates her considerable abilities and surely she must be a real contender at the US Open at the end of August.
“I would say this was very important,” the Czech said. “Definitely now I have more trust and more belief to go in the next Grand Slams.
“It’s been a while since I was actually in the second week, so I just hope everything’s going to be a bit better now.
“Let’s see what’s going to happen in the US Open. There’s still a chance. I played the final there [in 2016], so it’s not impossible.”
The 8th seed from the Czech Republic fought back admirably from, in her words, a ‘horrible start’ in which she lost the opening 14 points.
Inside a stunned arena, there were fears that this could be one of the quickest finals in Wimbledon’s history, but Pliskova dug in admirably to drag the match into a decider.
Although she was beaten, there was great warmth from the stands for her efforts, and the emotions of the moment left her to cry, even though she insisted on court: ‘I never cry’.
“I think if I would lose that match in, like, two sets, I think I would be okay, actually,” said Pliskova in an upbeat post-match press conference after the 6-3 6-7 6-3 loss.
“But because it took me so much effort, actually, today, to just be where I was, even though I lost, but just somehow struggling, I was fighting. Yeah, it was a lot of energy I had to put in there just to have that set, at least the second set.
“Even in the third I thought I was quite close for every [game on] her serve. It was quite difficult game.
“Doesn’t matter now. But somehow I thought the crowd was amazing. I felt like so much support from the crowd. I enjoyed also, of course, Princess Kate was there. I saw all these people just being there.”
Meanwhile Barty gained even more fans as she wept her tears of joy at realising her dreams and buried herself in her longtime boyfriend’s arms after climbing into the player box.
Garry Kissick knows what she has overcome to achieve her dreams and when they were reunited, fans melted.
Following all the emotion she showed on court after match point and in the trophy presentation, Barty composed herself as she went upstairs for her meeting with the Royal Family.
After chatting with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and the Duke of Kent, then fist bumping tennis royalty in Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova, Barty showed off her trophy to the fan-filled concourse from the balcony before handing what is officially called the Ladies’ Singles Challenge Plate, but is more commonly known as the Venus Rosewater Dish, to a Wimbledon official for safekeeping.
The 25-year-old was then reunited again with her team in the corridor and broke down again, sobbing into Kissick’s chest.
For the most part, Barty keeps her relationship with Kissick relatively quiet, although she does sporadically share photos of the couple on social media, and they occasionally make appearances together at black-tie events but, unlike many of her sporting comrades, very little is known about the World No 1’s boyfriend.
Kissick is 29-years old, an aspiring professional golfer who works as the irrigation technician for the greens at the Brookwater Golf & Country Club in Brisbane, is a passionate Liverpool supporter and part of the PGA Trainee program.
Barty and Kissick met at Brookwater in 2016, when she visited the course to play a round of golf, and they immediately clicked.
They went public with their relationship in 2017 when they appeared alongside each other at the John Newcombe Awards.
Kissick has also serves as Barty’s unofficial ball boy, helping out on the court however he can.
“They’re really the most normal couple you’ll find at that level in tennis,” a friend told Woman’s Day in 2019 “It’s refreshing because you often see mismatched liaisons in this sport.
“It’s funny to watch Ash practising at the big tournaments with her coach and see Garry pop up as the ball boy.
“He’ll skip back and forth, helping out between their rallies, encouraging her by passing on cricket scores or cracking jokes.
“Without even meaning to, Garry helps Ash play her very best tennis, because there’s certainly no pressure from him.”
Elsewhere, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were posting on social media: “What an incredible match and performance by both athletes! Congratulations @ashbarty on being crowned #Wimbledon champion.
“It was amazing to see the atmosphere and support from the fans echoing through centre court once again,” they added
“Well done to @Wimbledon and the staff on continuing to make the Championships such a special event.”
There is no Champions Dinner this year because of the pandemic and it is just two weeks until the Olympic Games kicks off in Tokyo where both Barty and Pliskova plan to be, hunting for Gold.