Image: Wikimedia Commons / Rob Keating
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Rob Keating

Ashleigh Barty wins first Wimbledon title

World number one Ashleigh Barty won her maiden Wimbledon title, beating Karolina Pliskova in a tense final to become the first Australian women’s champion for 41 years. This final was the 50th anniversary of her idol Evonne Goolagong Cawley’s maiden win, and it was clear what this moment meant to Barty as she cemented her place as the female player at the top of the game, winning 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3.

Barty came onto the court with the weight of emulating her idol on her mind, and the need to demonstrate that her French Open win two years ago was not an isolated victory. She came out swinging, stomping her authority onto the match nice and early.

She struck seven winners and took the first 14 points, a display of dominance that suggested she’d claim an easy win. Pliskova struggled to get going, and it wasn’t until 3-0 and 0-30 down that she registered her opening point of the match – the result of a Barty error, dumping her backhand into the net. Pliskova finally got on the scoreboard with a break to love after Barty led 4-0, but it was too late to make a difference – the Australian took the first set 6-3 in just 28 minutes.

The Czech continued to make mistakes at the start of set two, the score tied at 1-1, but she seemed to find her form and started to break back. The back-and-forth brought the score line to 5-5, and Pliskova threw a game point at 40-0 with a casual volley. Three more errors gave Barty a break of serve, and the chance to serve for the match and the title, but she was then overcome with nerves of her own.

The second set went to a tie-break, and Pliskova got the better of Barty in the key moments, emboldened by the hints of weakness in her opponent’s game. She won, taking the final to three sets, the first women’s Wimbledon final since 2012 to do so.

I wanted to dare to dream and say that I wanted to win this incredible tournament

– Ashleigh Barty

An early break of the Pliskova serve set the tone for the final set, as Barty regained her composure and formed a 3-0 lead in a few minutes. A couple of routine holds moved the score line to 5-3, and we moved into a tense final game. Her brilliant volley for 15-0 became 15-15 after she netted on the next point. A wide forehand, followed by a fantastic return of serve, and we were on 30-30. We entered deuce – Barty hit her seventh ace of the match, and then Pliskova netted a backhand on the championship point.

She crouched down on the court as the shock of her victory overcame her – meanwhile, for Pliskova, the search for a Grand Slam title rumbles on.

After her win, Barty said: “It took me a long time to verbalise the fact that I wanted to dare to dream and say that I wanted to win this incredible tournament. Being able to live out my dream here with everyone here, it’s better than I ever could have imagined. I didn’t sleep a lot last night and I was thinking of all of the ‘what ifs’ but coming out on this court, I felt at home in a way. Being able to share all of that with everyone here and with all of my team, that’s incredible.”

Pliskova said: “Thank you to everyone. I enjoyed every minute to play on this court… sorry… I never cry, never … I want to start with Ash, she played an incredible tournament and an incredible match today, it wasn’t easy to close the second set, I was fighting very hard to make it difficult for her, but I think she played very well, so congrats to her and her team. I want to thank all my team … and all the success goes to them, without them I would not be here, and of course to my family as well. No matter what trophy we have, I think we had an incredible three weeks here. Thank you guys.”

Barty’s victory is confirmation of her skill on the court – her confidence, and her ability to play a huge variety of shots and adapt to her opponent. She is the world number one, and after a surprisingly even final, she cemented her dominance at the top of the game.

This Wimbledon victory is Barty’s second Grand Slam, but I find it hard to imagine that it will be her last. The women’s game needs a player who can dominate, winning lots of majors and becoming the driving figure, and I think Barty could fill that role.

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