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Remember Andy Murray winning Wimbledon for the first time? The vibe was very similar on Saturday when Ashleigh Barty broke a 44-year drought for the home nation by winning the Australian Open.
The Southern Cross flew all around this 15,000-seat stadium as the Barty party rocked like never before. The whole crowd stood to welcome Evonne Goolagong-Cawley, a four-time former champion, when she walked out to present the trophy. And they stood again when Barty held it up.
“I'd spoken to [Goolagong-Cawley] earlier in the week, and [she said] she was staying at home and not being able to travel down this year,” Barty explained later. “So to have that surprise was amazing. She's an amazing human being, and I'm very, very lucky to be able to call her a friend.”
The world No 1 for more than two years, Barty had come into this event as the top seed and bookies’ favourite, but there was always the chance that the enormous pressure of expectation – which had overcome her here in the last couple of seasons – would trip her up again.
Instead, she completed her journey with a seventh successive straight-sets win, this one a 6-3, 7-6 outclassing of the USA’s Danielle Collins. As straightforward as she is humble, Barty then went straiht up to the Channel Nine TV balcony and chugged a bottle of Corona alongside her old friend and former doubles partner Casey Dellacqua.
“As Australians, we're extremely lucky to have the tennis history that we do,” said Barty. “I think there are a few that are closer to home for me, [like] Pat Rafter and Evonne. In the way that they handled themselves on the court, there's just no one better. To be a very small part of an amazing history in tennis as an Australian is really, really neat.”
At 25 years old, Barty now has three major titles – each of them on a different surface. Once she reaches a final, she almost invariably wins it, having finished with only two runner-up plates to place along her 12 trophies at tour level.
Barty is so understated that people under-rate her, perhaps finding her crafty, touch-heavy game less dramatic than the raw power of a Serena Williams or a Naomi Osaka. But her opponents are increasingly forced to acknowledge that she is pulling away from the competition. And unlike any of her leading rivals – who tend to have at least one surface-specific blind spot – she can keep up her dominance all year round.
“One of the biggest challenges that Jim set out for me when I was young was to be a complete player and be really consistent across all surfaces,” said Barty, in reference to her childhood coach Jim Joyce. “So to have a grand slam title on each surface is pretty amazing. I never probably thought it would ever happen to me.”
The most unexpected facet of Barty’s game is her phenomenal serve, which is far more lethal than it has any right to be given her relatively small stature. (She stands only 5ft 5in in a sport full of Amazons). Indeed, she had dropped only one service game across her first six matches of this tournament.
Against Collins, Barty’s pinpoint delivery allowed her to survive an otherwise scratchy first set, thanks to the remarkable 62 per cent of her serves which went unreturned. But then, like London buses, two more breaks arrived in successive games in the second set, allowing Collins to move out to a 5-1 lead.
So strong was Collins’s position, and so inevitable did a third set seem, that Barty relaxed for the first time in the match. Suddenly, she began to construct the sorts of points she is renowned for: points full of clever knifed slices, backed up by a deadly accurate forehand drive.
Barty reeled off six of the next seven games, clinching the concluding tie-break with a devastating forehand winner into the corner, then held her arms in the air as the arena exploded with noise.
Earlier, Collins had been forced to bear the brunt of a one-sided crowd. She showed understandable hints of frustration when over-excited fans shouted out right before she was due to serve.
At one stage, a fan responded to an over-hit serve by yelling “That was two metres out.” When the next serve drew an error from Barty, who chopped her return into the tramlines, Collins turned towards the direction of the shout and held her hands out to indicate how far the ball had missed by.
“That kind of stuff only helps me,” said Collins afterwards. “I love competing and trying to make it fun. It added flair to the match.”
A ferocious ball-striker and an even more ferocious competitor, Collins will now climb into the world’s top ten for the first time. She is an exciting player to watch, as her semi-final demolition of Iga Swiatek demonstrated. But she was hampered here by lower-back issues, which have prevented her from sitting down at changeovers throughout this event.
“I was having some issues being able to fully rotate on some of my shots,” she said. “Today my body wasn't always agreeing with me, which is to be expected when you go this far in a tournament. The biggest issue has just been muscle spasms in the lower back.”
Ashleigh Barty vs Danielle Collins, as it happened
That's all folks
Thanks as always for joining us. One singles final down, one more to go.
Join us again tomorrow for coverage of the men's final between Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev, with history poised to be made.
30 - Ashleigh #Barty is the first Australian Open Women's Singles winner with 30 or less games dropped on her way to secure the title since Mary Pierce in 1995. RedCarpet.#AO2022 #AustralianOpen #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/mAgaYVz6n1
— OptaAce (@OptaAce) January 29, 2022
Nice symmetry there
Ashleigh Barty defeated Amanda Anismova, Danielle Collins, Madison Keys, and Jessica Pegula to win the 2019 French Open.
Did the same en route to the 2022 #AusOpen title.
— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) January 29, 2022
'No better tennis player'
There is just no better tennis player at the moment than @ashbarty
Most complete and focused! The way she is able to put pieces together and add a bit more to her game is absolutely admirable! What an example!
Congrats champ to you and all your team ❤️
— victoria azarenka (@vika7) January 29, 2022
This was a special moment - Evonne and Ash
More from Barty
To my team…wow. I’m so lucky tonight to have so many people here who love and support me. Pretty bloody special that my mum, dad and my sisters are here.
Pretty rapt that they could come down here today. I’m an incredibly lucky girl to have so much love in my corner.
You guys in the crowd have been nothing short of exceptional. You brought me so much joy out here today. You relaxed me, you forced me to play my best tennis and against a champion like Danielle I knew I had to absolutely bring that today.
This is just a dream come true for me and I'm so proud to be an Aussie.
It’s been tremendous to watch Ash climb the rankings all the way to No.1 and live out her dreams. I really admire you for the player that you are and the variety in your game.
Hopefully I can implement some of that into mine.
Evonne Goolagong Cawley to hand the winner's trophy to Barty
That is sure to be an emotional moment for the entire nation.
Ash's face upon seeing Evonne 😍😍😍 pic.twitter.com/OW6yIsho8l
— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) January 29, 2022
The winning moment for Barty
Win a Grand Slam on home soil? Completed it mate 🇦🇺🏆@ashbarty defeats Danielle Collins 6-3 7-6(2) to become the #AO2022 women’s singles champion.
🎥: @wwos • @espn • @eurosport • @wowowtennis #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/TwXQ9GACBS
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 29, 2022
— Donna Vekic (@DonnaVekic) January 29, 2022
Barty fought back from 1-5 in the 2nd set to defeat to win her 3rd major title and end Australia’s 44-year wait for an Australian singles champion.
Barty 6-3, 7-6 Collins - TIEBREAK
Collins forehand long, 1-0. Collins backhand return long, 2-0. Barty forehand winner, 3-0. Barty overhead winner, 4-0. Barty return long, 4-1. Collins backhand return into the net, 5-1.
Barty backhand error, 5-2. Collins forehand error, 6-2. Barty forehand winner, 7-2.
GAME SET CHAMPIONSHIP BARTY.
Barty* 6-3, 6-6 Collins (*denotes server)
Barty ace, her 10th, to start the game. Aggressive Collins forehand return and Barty's reply flies long, 15-30. Barty's first serve comes to the party as she wins the next three points to hold.
Barty 6-3, 5-6 Collins* (*denotes server)
Collins misses with a low forehand. Backhand drive volley winner by Collins, 15-15.
Barty forehand return into the net, 40-15. And she stops Barty's streak when a big serve is unreturned.
Collins has guaranteed herself a tiebreak.
Barty* 6-3, 5-5 Collins (*denotes server)
Barty is full of confidence right now and Collins having to weather a storm.
An ace from Barty makes it four games in a row and puts us back level in this set. How will Collins respond now?
Barty 6-3, 4-5 Collins* (*denotes server)
Back-to-back errors by Barty allows Collins to get 30-0 ahead. Barty punishes a Collins second serve with a forehand return winnner.
Brilliant Barty forehand down the line clips the baseline, 30-30. Another Collins second serve she punished by Barty, break point.
Collins backhand into the net. Rod Laver Arena erupts as Barty wins her third game in a row.
Barty* 6-3, 3-5 Collins (*denotes server)
Barty coming back to life again after that dip a few games ago. A forehand winner makes it 30-0 and an ace for 40-0.
Collins hangs around with a deep backhand cross court which Barty nets with a backhand. Another backhand into the net by Barty, 40-30.
Collins goes for too much with a forehand and Barty holds. Huge game coming up.
Barty 6-3, 2-5 Collins* (*denotes server)
Barty forehand winner, better from her there, 0-15. Another Barty forehand winner, this time off a Collins second serve, 15-30.
Barty forehand error, 30-30. Collins backhand drifts long, 30-40. Break point Barty.
Deep Barty return off a Collins second serve and the American nets. Still hope in this set for Barty?
Barty* 6-3, 1-5 Collins (*denotes server)
Barty starts the game with a double fault. Good defense by Barty, Collins should put away the volley but doesn't. And she's punished as Barty rifles a forehand winner down the line.
Barty takes control of the rally and has a drive volley on her forehand but hits it long. Very bad miss.
Barty double fault. Two break points. Deep Collins return and Barty nets a backhand. Double break for Collins.
What a turnaround.
Barty 6-3, 1-4 Collins* (*denotes server)
Collins opens the game with a forehand winner down the line. An overhead winner makes it 40-15. And a cross court forehand winner means game.
Intensity and positive energy flowing out of Collins right now. She is very pumped.
Barty* 6-3, 1-3 Collins (*denotes server)
Normal service resumed on the Barty serve as she holds to love with backhand winner down the line.
That took just 1:02mins.
Barty 6-3, 0-3 Collins* (*denotes server)
Collins backhand long, 30-30. Big point coming up. Collins goes long with a backhand, break point Barty.
Barty nets a backhand, huge roar from Collins. Barty's return creeps over the nets and drags Collins forward but the American puts a backhand long. Second break point.
Tense rally but Barty gets the upper hand until she volleys wide. She had to do better there.
Collins is pumped now as she consolidates after dominating the rally with her backhand and finishing with a winner.
Barty* 6-3, 0-2 Collins (*denotes server)
Good defense by Collins and Barty flicks a forehand wide, 15-30. She then nets a forehand after a deep Collins return. An error-strewn game by the world No 1. Two break points.
Barty saves the first with an ace, her sixth of the match. Collins gets a look at a second serve and hammers a deep return which puts Barty on the back foot. Collins plays a forehand down the line which Barty lobs into the air. After a long wait, Collins lets the ball bounce and puts away the overhead to break.
Second Set: Barty 6-3, 0-1 Collins* (*denotes server)
Barty's movement is too good at the moment for Collins. But the American shows her resilience to hold to 15 in what is a must win set.
Barty* 6-3 Collins (*denotes server)
Great movement by Barty and her deep forehand forces a shank from Collins. Barty forehand winner, 30-0.
Good second serve by Barty and Collins' return flies long. And a love hold for Barty is complete with an ace.
Barty 5-3 Collins* (*denotes server)
Serving to stay in the set, Collins double faults on the opening point. She bounces back with a forehand winner after a big first serve.
Barty nets a forehand pass on the run, 30-15. Barty gets Collins on the run again and draws the error, 30-30.
Barty nets another forehand and Collins comes through with an ace. Barty to serve for the set next.
Barty* 5-2 Collins (*denotes server)
Barty consolidates the break with a service hold to 15. Three games in a row and she needs one more for the set.
Big response needed from Collins fast.
Barty 4-2 Collins* (*denotes server)
Tight looking Collins forehand into the net, 15-30. Barty tries to bring Collins in and then hit a lob but her shot drifts long.
Break point Barty after dragging Collins out wide and finishing with a forehand winner.
Collins double fault, both serves missing by a mile. Very nervous from the American but Barty breaks to lead.
Barty* 3-2 Collins (*denotes server)
Very little to separate the two players so far. 10 winners between them. Eight unforced errors between them.
First deuce of the match after Barty nets a forehand. Great defense by Collins and Barty puts a forehand long. First break point of the match.
Collins goes for it with the return but Barty matches it and whips a forehand winner cross court.
Barty comes through that mini battle with an ace.
Barty 2-2 Collins* (*denotes server)
Terrific ball striking by Collins as she rifles a backhand winner cross court, 15-15. That backhand is some shot from Collins, another huge hit catches Barty off balance, 40-15.
And she holds when a forehand clips the net and drops in. Collins offers a hand in apology. But nobody is really sorry when that happens!
Barty* 2-1 Collins (*denotes server)
Impeccable serve accuracy from Barty. An ace makes it 40-0. But a tight forehand from Barty goes long.
Another first serve by Barty is unreturned by Collins and Barty holds. Collins not getting as much joy as she did against Iga Swiatek.
Barty 1-1 Collins* (*denotes server)
Bit of luck for Barty as her forehand clips the net cord but drops in, 0-15. Collins forehand winner, no nerves on that shot, 15-15.
Backhand slice from Barty drifts long, 40-15. And she makes an ideal start when a wide serve is returned into the net by Barty.
First Set: Ashleigh Barty* 1-0 Danielle Collins (*denotes server)
First point goes to Barty after Collins nets a return.
An ace makes it 40-0. That's her 36th of the tournament. Collins gets on the board when Barty's backhand drifts long. First big Collins return of the match as she goes for it off a Barty second serve. But Barty holds when Collins nets a return.
Into the five minute warm up
Ashleigh Barty has won the toss and will serve first. Marijana Veljovic in the chair for the final.
Here we go...
... the players make the long walk through the tunnel of champions and receive a rapturous reception from the crowd on Rod Laver Arena.
A deafening noise when Barty is announced.
Collins hoping to follow in the footsteps of childhood heroes Venus and Serena Williams
Those were my favourite matches. I would ask my parents to get up early in the morning to watch their night matches.
To be playing on this stage where so many of my idols as a kid played, it's almost surreal. This is just what we all as kids dream of doing. So it's just such a special moment for me. I'm just trying to embrace all of it.
Some big names in attendance today
— Michal Samulski (@MichalSamulski) January 29, 2022
This is the trophy Barty and Collins will be playing for
Road to the final - Collins
Danielle Collins’ Road to the #AusOpen Final:
Round 1: d. Dolehide 6-1, 6-3
Round 2: d. Konjuh 6-4, 6-3
Round 3: d. Tauson 4-6, 6-4, 7-5
Round 4: d. Mertens  4-6, 6-4, 6-4
Quarterfinal: d. Cornet 7-5, 6-1
Semifinal: d. Swiatek  6-4, 6-1
Will face Barty in the Final. pic.twitter.com/Gxxu6kJIwL
— wta (@WTA) January 27, 2022
Road to the final - Barty
Ashleigh Barty’s Road to the #AusOpen Final:
Round 1: d. Tsurenko 6-0, 6-1
Round 2: d. Bronzetti 6-1, 6-1
Round 3: d. Giorgi  6-2, 6-3
Round 4: d. Anisimova 6-4, 6-3
Quarterfinal: d. Pegula  6-2, 6-0
Semifinal: Keys 6-1, 6-3
Will face Collins in the Final. pic.twitter.com/3T8MH0csEx
— wta (@WTA) January 27, 2022
Hello and welcome to coverage of the Australian Open women's final between Ashleigh Barty and Danielle Collins.
All eyes will be on Barty and whether she can end a 44-year wait for a home winner and claim a third grand slam title, cementing her position as the best player in the world. But she faces a tricky opponent in Collins, whose story to this point is a remarkable one.
Last April, Collins underwent surgery endometriosis and affected most of her season. But she has bounced back impressive and she's now one win away from a maiden grand slam title. And Barty says she is well aware of the threat posed by the American.
"She's an exceptional ball striker," Barty said of her 28-year-old opponent. "She's someone who stands on the baseline and can hit all spots of the court from any position. I think the challenge is going to be trying to get her off-balance. "I think the way she's able to control the baseline and really take the game on she's one of the most fierce competitors out here. She loves to get in your face and loves to really take it on."
Australia has been waiting for a women's singles finalist since Wendy Turnbull back in 1980, with Chris O'Neal the last home champion in the women's or men's singles two years earlier.
Barty, who won the French Open in 2019 and Wimbledon last summer, said: "Absolutely embrace it. You have to. It's fun. It's brilliant to be playing in the business end of your home slam. I'm not going to lie about that. It's amazing. I think being able to experience it multiple times has been incredible, but Saturday's going to be a new experience for me. So I go out there and embrace it, smile, try and do the best that I can and whatever happens, happens.
"It's been an incredible January, an incredible summer for us. I'm really looking forward to having one last crack here to really go out there and enjoy it."