If there is any remaining question as to Ash Barty’s credentials as the World No 1, the fact that she is now the Wimbledon Ladies Champion should put those to rest.
The top seed claimed her second Grand Slam crown, her first at Wimbledon, with a 6-3 6-7(4) 6-3 defeat of No 8 seed Karolina Pliskova in 1 hour and 55 minutes.
“It was the most incredible feeling I think I’ve ever experienced on a tennis court,” Barty said, in her post-match press conference. “There was certainly disbelief.
“I think 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 were tears of joy, emotion and disappointment from both.
“I think I never had a better moment in my career,” Pliskova said later. “So of course it makes you a bit, let’s say, more sensitive than I normally am. I enjoyed that.
“It was not the plan to cry because, like, I don’t want to cry on the court.
“I feel like, Okay, cry in the locker room, but not on the court. Somehow I could not. The people, they didn’t really – they cheered so much. Just like too many emotions.
“Of course, it’s been, like, long three weeks since I was here in London, in the bubble. So of course you’re a bit tired. All the emotions, they just go. Yeah, not proud about that.”
In the first women’s final since 1977 where neither contender had ever reached the Wimbledon final before, Barty got off to a roaring start as Karolina Pliskova stared into the headlines.
Few would have thought that from those toe-curling beginnings, that there would turn into an utterly riveting contest.
Not since 2012 has the women’s final gone the distance, and ultimately it was Barty who lasted the course to triumph 6-3 6-7(4) 6-3 in just 5 minutes under 2 hours.
It could have been over in a heartbeat, the way it started, considering the little resistance that Pliskova put up at the outset.
The disastrous start was almost painful to watch as Barty streaked ahead winning the first 14 points of the match and won 4 games in a row.
When Pliskova won her first point, the result of a Barty miscue, the full capacity Centre Court erupted with encouragement.
When she won her first game, the applause was even louder as they encouraged the 6’ 1” Czech to get into the match.
She did, eventually, after the first 4 uncomfortable games were done and dusted in Barty’s favour.
Everyone prayed there would be no repeat of the Rome final this year, where Pliskova succumbed to Iga Swiatek in a double-bagel horror show, and there wasn’t as Pliskova slowly but surely worked her way back into contention just Barty got a little tight, and 2 of the next 3 games got the Czech got on the scoreboard.
The two had met 7 times at Tour-level before this encounter, with Barty leading 5-2, but the Australian had to come back from a set down in their last two meetings.
Barty’s full repertoire of skills was on show from the get-go with a series of un-returnable serves laying the foundation for a perfectly executed strategy of aggressive forehand winners combined with biting backhand slices which forced Pliskova to bend her knees ever lower, until invariably an error was elicited.
Rattled and unable to settle, the Czech did not help her cause by double-faulting to go down a double break.
A smattering of Barty forehand errors to drop serve broke the spell in the 5th game but it was too late to change the outcome of the opening set as the World No 1 broke again to lead 5-1, and ultimately served it out at the second go.
“I think there were some up-and-downs,” Barty said. “I think there were small runs of momentum.
“I think there were small runs of opportunities on second serves from both of us.
“I felt like we were both able to take advantage when we saw runs of second serves in a row.
“I think that was the challenge today, was trying to control my service games as clean as possible. I wasn’t able to do that every time, but I felt like I was building in the right way.”
Pliskova landed her first ace as the second set got under way, signalling that she had shaken off her nerves, but she nearly threw it away when she coughed up a pair of double-faults and cheap forehand errors to fall behind 1-3.
Barty was now showcasing spell-binding tennis alongside nervy errors, and a double-fault with errant forehands handed the break back before 2 forehand winners clipped the edge of the line and enabled her to level at 4-4.
At 5-5, the first deuce game of the match saw Barty break from 40-0 down, courtesy of some remarkable defence.
Serving for the title, Barty’s forehand let her down again, and she paid a heavy price as Pliskova surged through the ensuing tiebreak, 2 net cords falling the 29-year-old’s way, but the Czech was also able to raise her game to come out on top of several thrilling points towards the end of the second set.
“I think trying to serve out the match in the second set, I gave [Pliskova] a look in,” Barty said. “She grabbed it with both hands.
“I think 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 every given point regardless of what the scoreline was.”
Pliskova had played herself back into contention but Barty shook off the disappointment of failing to close out the match with remarkable swiftness, getting back on track with her first drop-shot of the day for an opening hold.
The 6’ 1” Czech seemed to relax too much after levelling, and a netted forehand volley put her behind an immediate break.
Despite some valiant highlights, Pliskova was unable to make up that ground and Barty, serving for the title a second time, got hold of her nerves and after delivering her 7th ace of the day to set up her first championship point, and she sealed it as Pliskova netted a backhand.
The title is the 12th of Barty’s career, and a tour-leading 4th of 2021, but for Barty this is probably the sweetest as she accomplished her childhood dream.
Fifty years after Evonne Goolagong became the first indigenous Australian to win Wimbledon, Barty walked a dance of joy in her footsteps.
“Match point? I can’t remember it! Being able to live out my dream with everyone here has made it better than I could ever have imagined,” she told Sue Barker on court afterwards.
“This is incredible,” she said before congratulating Pliskova. “At the start of the third I told myself to just keep fighting.
“She’s an incredible competitor, and she brought out the best in me.
“It was an exceptional match and I’m really proud that I was able to bring my best level, reset, just keep chipping away and hold my nerve at the end.
“I can’t thank my team enough, sacrificing their time and energy into my dream.
“I didn’t sleep a lot last night thinking of all the what-ifs, but coming out on to the Centre Court, I felt at home. And I hope I made Evonne proud.”
Pliskova came in to this fortnight having fallen out of the top ten for the first time in 5 years, and her return to that elite group is guaranteed.
“I mean, not ideal start of the final, of course,’ Pliskova added. ‘But I have to say, like, a lot of credit to her.
“One thing is that maybe I didn’t start well, but I think she really made it super difficult for me to just feel well.
“Actually all the match I think she did great stuff. She was playing well.
“I think maybe one of the best matches she played against me because we played couple times. I thought she was always a bit, like, on and off.”
Winning Wimbledon is many a player’s goal, but Barty, the 2019 Roland-Garros champion, is so committed to her ambitions that she is spending at least six months away from home this yeat to avoid the long quarantine necessary on any return.
Injuries halted her in Rome and Paris, and the hip injury she sustained at Roland-Garros made it touch-and-go whether she would get to Wimbledon at all, never mind making it through 7 rounds.
Barty is the first Australian to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish since Goolagong Cawley in 1980, and the first woman to win Wimbledon as No 1 seed since Serena Williams in 2016.
The 2011 girls’ champion here, Barty is also the 3rd player in the Open Era to back up a junior Wimbledon title with the senior one, following Ann Jones, Martina Hingis and Amélie Mauresmo.
Most significantly, Barty’s triumph comes on the 50th anniversary of Goolagong Cawley’s first Wimbledon title in 1971.
The 7-time major champion Goolagong Cawley was the first Indigenous Australian to win a Grand Slam, and a trailblazer for players such as Barty, who was named Tennis Australia’s National Indigenous Tennis Ambassador in 2018.
This year, Barty has paid sartorial tribute to Goolagong Cawley via her scallop-hemmed outfit.
“Australians have such a rich history in sport, and I think being able to be a very small part of that is something I always dreamt of,” Barty said. “Try and create a legacy, try and create a path for young girls and boys to believe in their dreams.
“Being able to kind of live through that and learn my lessons along the way has been some of the best parts of my journey.
“To be able to be successful here at Wimbledon, to achieve my biggest dream, has been absolutely incredible.
“The stars aligned for me over the past fortnight. Incredible that it happened to fall on the 50th anniversary of Evonne’s first title here, too.”
In 2 short weeks Barty will be in Tokyo looking for Olympic Gold, ever proud that she is now a Wimbledon champion.