Ashleigh Barty joined an illustrious list of Australian names etched on Wimbledon silverware as she beat Karolina Pliskova in a nerve-shredding final to become the first woman from Down Under to win the singles title for 41 years on Saturday (July 10).
The 25-year-old world number one looked on course for an embarrassingly easy triumph as Pliskova suffered one of the worst starts ever seen in a Wimbledon final, but eventually needed her best to claim a 6-3 6-7(4) 6-3 victory.
After Pliskova struck a backhand into the net following one hour and 55 minutes of see-sawing action, Barty sank to her knees in realisation of fulfilling a childhood dream.
With tears running down her cheeks she then climbed into the stands towards her team, a tradition started by compatriot Pat Cash when he won the men’s singles in 1987.
When she returned to the lush grass, she spoke of her joy of emulating her idol Evonne Goolagong who won the first of her two Wimbledon titles 50 years ago, before adding her second in 1980, since when no Australian woman had won the singles.
Barty, like Goolagong, takes great pride in her indigenous heritage and has worn a scalloped-edged retro outfit in honour of the Australian trailblazer.
“I said just keep fighting,” Barty, whose participation at Wimbledon had been in doubt after she withdrew from the French Open last month with a hip injury, said on court after receiving the Venus Rosewater Dish from the Duchess of Cambridge.
“Kaja (Karolina) brought out the very best of me today. It took me a long time to verbalise that I wanted to win this incredible tournament… being able to live out my dream right now is better then I ever could have imagined.
“I didn’t sleep a lot last night and as I was thinking of all the what ifs but I felt at home out on the court.
“I hope I made Evonne proud.”
Barty won her maiden Grand Slam at the 2019 French Open but joining the likes of Goolagong, Margaret Court, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and John Newcombe as a Wimbledon champion cements her name amongst Australian sporting greats.
“So happy for you, our dreams come true, what a fight,” four-time Wimbledon champion Laver said on Twitter.
Not since 1977 had two first-time Wimbledon finalists gone head to head in the women’s championship match.
But for the first set only one showed up.
Eighth seed Pliskova, whose previous Grand Slam final ended in defeat at the US Open in 2016, suffered every player’s worst nightmare as she froze solid.
Her feet seemed stuck in clay, her arms in a straight jacket and her mind in a fog as Barty helped herself to the first 14 points of the match with clinical precision.
It felt like a slow motion train crash and the 15,000 Centre Court crowd did not know whether to watch or turn their faces away out of respect for the suffering Czech.
When she got on the scoreboard thanks to a Barty error, a huge cheer broke the tension and Pliskova smiled awkwardly.
A double fault left her 0-4 down though and it was hard to see how she would win a game, let alone the title.