January 29, (THEWILL) – Ashleigh Barty won the Australian Open after defeating Danielle Collins in straight sets, 6-3 7-6(2), to become the first Australian woman to win a Grand Slam singles championship in 44 years.
The top seed ended an agonising wait for an Australian singles champion at Melbourne Park, dating back to Christine O’Neil’s triumph on Rod Laver Arena in 1978.
Incredibly, the world number one did not drop a single set en route to winning her home Grand Slam, elevating the “Barty Party” to new heights.
Barty could not have had a better start to the match, dominating Collins from the back of the court from the beginning and winning the first set 6-3.
As she sat at the changeover during the opening set, the world number one appeared to be cruising as the spectators applauded her seeming cruise to the title. Collins, on the other hand, was written off far too soon by many. With some great tennis, the Americans took the lead early in the second set. With a break of serve, she stamped her influence on the proceedings and raced to a 3-0 lead.
Barty re-entered the set late, but the unforced errors continued to seep in under pressure, despite her calm performance earlier in the match.
Collins, who was playing in her maiden Grand Slam final, revelled in the role of underdog and began to express herself with a clenched fist after each victory as the match appeared to be headed for a deciding set.
Barty did a remarkable job of staging a sustained comeback, breaking back twice at a vital stage to force a tie-break, leaving Collins to complain to the umpire about the raucous home support disrupting her service moves.
In the ensuing dramatic and topsy-turvy tie-break, it was the Queenslander who kept her cool under almost unimaginable pressure to claim a historic triumph on her home court after one hour and 27 minutes.
The 25-year-old has now won three Grand Slam singles titles, including Roland-Garros and Wimbledon, and, most notably, has ended Australia’s lengthy wait for a home singles winner in front of the home crowd.
In an emotion-laden voice, Barty took in all the applause saying: “Thank you everyone so much! I have to say congratulations to Danielle, it has been an amazing fortnight for you. I know you will be fighting for many more of these in the future.
“I am a little stumped! I would love to thank everyone who does so much work behind the scenes – it takes a really big village to put on an event like this. This tournament has been one of my favourite experiences, so thank you so much for that.
“To all the umpires, ball kids, everyone who makes it so easy for us players to do what we do – you guys make it seamless and without you we would be lost!
“To my team, wow! I have said numerous times, I am so lucky to have so many people here who love and support me. Mum, dad and my sisters, I am an incredibly fortunate and lucky girl to have so much love in my corner.
“No one has changed in our team, we are the best in the business and I can’t thank you enough for all the time you put into me.
“As an Aussie, the most important part of this is being able to share it, and you guys have been nothing short of exceptional. This crowd is one of the most fun I have ever played in front of – you relaxed me and forced me to play my best tennis! Against a champion like Danielle I had to bring that today.
“This is a dream come true to me and I am so proud to be an Aussie, so thank you so much everyone – we will see you next time!”
Collins spoke too, adding some praise for Barty: “I think I owe a big congratulations to Ash on a phenomenal two weeks and phenomenal couple of years. I really admire you as the player you are, the variety in your game, and hopefully I can implement some of that into mine.”