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Ashleigh Barty wins Australian Open, ends 44-year drought of Aussie champions

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Ashleigh Barty is the first Australian Open women's champion in 44 years who is actually from Australia.

In front of an enthusiastic home crowd, the world No. 1 beat fierce upstart Danielle Collins 6-3, 7-6 (7-2) on Saturday to become the first Australian woman since Chris O'Neil in 1978 to win the country's most celebrated tennis title.

Barty, who had to defeat three straight Americans to reach the title match against Collins, had been on a hot streak heading into the final. Before her match with Collins, she hadn't dropped a single set, and had lost just 21 games — and only one of those losses was a service game.

But Barty had a much tougher time against Collins, one of the most ferocious competitors on the tour. It took Barty 1 hour, 27 minutes to defeat Collins, much longer than the 1-hour, 1-minute average Barty had in her other six matches in the event.

"The most important part of this tournament is able to share it with you," Barty told the home crowd after the win. "This crowd is one of the most fun I've ever played in front of. ...You forced me to play my best tennis.

"This is just a dream come true. I am so proud to be an Aussie."

Australia's Ashleigh Barty hits a return against Danielle Collins in the Australian Open women's final. (Photo by AARON FRANCIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Australia's Ashleigh Barty hits a return against Danielle Collins in the Australian Open women's final. (Photo by AARON FRANCIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Barty rallies from 5-1, second-set deficit

After Barty won the first set, Collins — who seemed to be dealing with a lower back issue — held to open the second set.

Then Collins got a break.

The American broke Barty — the second break for Barty in the entire tournament — for a 2-0 lead, sealing it with an overhead winner. Collins survived a few break points in the next game — one on a beautiful cross-court winner — for a 3-0 lead.

Both players held in their next service games as Collins took a 4-1 lead, then she broke Barty again to make it 5-1 as Rod Laver Arena got really quiet.

Then Barty got rolling.

Barty was able to get one of the breaks back in the next game to cut Collins' lead to 5-2, then held to make it 5-3.

Collins led 30-0 before Barty hit a pair of forehand winners and took advantage of Collins' second serve to get a break point, which she capitalized on to cut Collins' lead to 5-4 and get the set back on serve.

Barty held serve — finishing it off with an ace — to make it 5-5.

Collins hit a wide forehand to open the next game on her serve, but regrouped and won the next four points to hold. Barty trailed 15-30 on her serve in the next game but won the next three points to force a second-set tiebreaker — the first tiebreaker for either player in the tournament.

The tiebreaker was all Barty.

Barty took a quick mini-break on the first point. Collins then hit a backhand long as Barty took a 2-0 lead, and a forehand winner made it 3-0.

An overhead smash made it 4-0 Barty as the crowd went wild. Collins finally earned a point to make it 4-1, but then hit a backhand into the net as they changed ends with Barty leading 5-1.

Barty and Collins traded points, leaving Barty with four match points. She needed only one as a forehand winner gave Barty the championship.

"Big congratulations to Ash," Collins said on the court after the match. "I really admire you as a player. … Hopefully, I can implement some [of your game] into mine."

Barty party on hold early in first set

Barty got to 40-0 in her first two service games to hold fairly easily, but Collins showed no nerves and held in her first two service games. Barty was taken to deuce in her next service game, but held again for a 3-2 lead.

Then Barty got the break she needed.

With the score 30-30, Barty delivered an easy forehand winner to make it 30-40. Then Collins — with the wind at her back at Rod Laver Arena — double faulted to give Barty the game and a 4-2 lead.

Barty rolled in her next service game — despite a double fault at 40-0 — for a 5-2 lead. Collins responded from a 0-15 deficit to hold to make it 5-3, but Barty had no trouble closing out the first set on her serve with the wind at her back, winning it at love.

Barty was unbeatable

This is Barty's third Grand Slam win. She won the French Open in 2019, and just last year won Wimbledon. Coincidentally, Barty had to beat Amanda Anisimova, Jessica Pegula and Madison Keys to win the French Open in 2019 — the same three women she beat over the past week to get to the Aussie Open final.

But no one really needed a simple coincidence to confirm what everyone saw over the past two weeks. Barty was sharp, efficient and relentless, and she made it all look effortless. She looked ready to hit the final from the moment she stepped onto the court for her Round 1 match.

Barty, who has been the world No. 1 for over 100 weeks in total, hasn't given up the top spot in the WTA rankings since September 2019. With her victory at the Australian Open, she now has an iron grip on No. 1. There is a lot of incredible talent in women's tennis at this level, but many of the players lack the one thing it would take to knock Barty off the top: consistency. That's what Barty has, and that's what makes her so dangerous. And if she keeps up that same level of performance and consistency, she might be nearly unbeatable this year.