Barty wins Australian Open women’s title in drought | Sports News


By JOHN PYE, AP Sports Journalist

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ash Barty won’t need to think too much about the 1970s again when she prepares for the Australian Open.

Top-seeded Barty rallied from 5-1 in the second set to beat Danielle Collins 6-3, 7-6(2) in the final on Saturday night, ending a 44-year drought for the Australians in their Grand Slam at home. tournament.

Barty is the first Australian women’s singles champion since Chris O’Neil in 1978. She was the first local player to reach the final since Wendy Turnbull in 1980.

The pressure is on the 25-year-old Australian, who has made a remarkable comeback to his career after taking time off – missing all Grand Slams in 2015 and 2016 – and briefly flirting with a professional cricketing career after three first rounds. released in the majors in 2014.

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Barty now has Grand Slam singles titles on three surfaces, adding the hard court of Melbourne Park to her victory on grass at Wimbledon last year and on clay at the French Open 2019. She joins Serena Williams as only active players on the women’s circuit with majors on all three surfaces.

“It’s just a dream come true for me,” Barty, 25, said. “I’m so proud to be an Australian.”

Evonne Goolagong Cawley, a tennis icon with seven Grand Slam singles titles and a trailblazer for Australia’s Indigenous athletes, was a surprise guest to present the champion’s trophy to Barty, who is part of a new generation of native stars.

O’Neil was also involved on the night, having carried the trophy into the stadium for the pre-match ceremony.

“I’m an incredibly lucky and lucky girl to have so much love in my corner,” Barty said, thanking her coach and support team, family, tournament organizers and the crowd.

Barty hadn’t dropped a set and conceded just one service game in six games, against American Amanda Anisimova in the fourth round.

Collins, 28, was the fourth American to face Barty in four straight rounds. Barty had defeated 2017 US Open runner-up Anisimova, Jessica Pegula and Madison Keys in straight sets.

Collins had spent more than four more hours on the court than Barty in his previous six matches, having to come back from a set and crumble to beat Danish teenager Clara Tauson in the third round and rally from a set to beat Elise Mertens in the Fourth.

Barty won the first set after saving a break point in the fifth game and then breaking the next.

Not to be outdone, Collins fought back quickly, unloading with his powerful ground shots and relying on his high intensity play, breaking Barty’s serve in games two and six to take a 5-1 lead.

Collins served twice for the set and both times was within two points of leveling the match and leading her first Grand Slam final to a deciding set.

She was leading 30-0 in game seven of the set, but started to lose momentum when Barty hopped on a second serve and sent a game-winning return down the line. Another forehand winner just grabbed the baseline, then Barty had a breakpoint chance with another powerful forehand.

Collins went to the chair umpire to complain about people making noise during the point and was booed heavily by the crowd. The referee asked the fans to refrain from shouting during the game, out of courtesy to both players.

When Collins hit a wide backhand to drop the match, she received another loud boo from the crowd.

Barty recovered the energy of a nearly full house at Rod Laver Arena, despite government restrictions on ticket sales amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

She won five of the next six games to force a tiebreaker, then took control taking a 4-0 lead.

“As an Aussie, the most important part of this tournament is being able to share it with so many people,” Barty said. “This crowd is one of the most fun I’ve played in front of. You relaxed me, you forced me to play my best tennis.

Barty had reached the quarter-finals of his major at home the previous three years and was the top seed for the third consecutive year, but his best run so far on Saturday at Melbourne Park was a semi-final loss to eventual champion Sofia Kenin in 2020. Pressure from home expectations had taken their toll in the past. This time, she said, she was just rolling with it.

There were fan pockets in gold shirts with Barty printed on the front in red, imitating the logo of Vegemite, the famous Australian condiment. Other fans wore the canary yellow jersey of the World Cup-winning national cricket team, a nod to one of Barty’s other sporting passions.

Australian flags and the red, black and yellow Aboriginal flag were waved around the crowd. Cathy Freeman, who draped both flags around her to celebrate her gold medal in the 400 meters at the Sydney 2000 Olympics – one of the defining images of those Games – sat next to the end line of the Rod Laver Arena in full support.

Barty praised Collins and told her she “absolutely” belongs in the Top 10, adding, “I know you’ll be fighting for a lot of them in the future.”

The run to the final was the best of a Grand Slam yet for Collins, who reached the semi-finals in Australia in 2019 and the quarter-finals at Roland Garros.

She paid tribute to her longtime mentor Marty Schneider and her boyfriend Joe Vollen, who were in the stands in support.

“Thank you for believing in me,” she said, crying. “I haven’t had a ton of people believe me in my career. Supporting me every step of the way means everything to me.

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