Tennis-Barty excited by chance to mark Goolagong anniversary with own Wimbledon title

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·3 min read
Wimbledon
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By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - Ash Barty has spoken at length about her admiration for Evonne Goolagong's trailblazing Wimbledon title 50 years ago and is now on the cusp of emulating her idol.

The 25-year-old reached her maiden Wimbledon final on Thursday, defeating Germany's Angelique Kerber 6-3 7-6(3) with a masterful display on Centre Court.

It made her the first Australian woman to reach the singles final at the All England Club since Goolagong won the second of her Wimbledon titles in 1980.

Both have indigenous Australian heritage and Barty's respect for Goolagong has seen her sport an outfit reminiscent of the one her compatriot wore in 1971 when beating Margaret Court.

"It's a really special anniversary for Evonne," Barty told reporters. "Now to kind of give myself a chance to create some history almost in a way that's a tribute to her is really exciting. I couldn't be more rapt to have that opportunity."

World number one Barty will face big-serving Czech Karolina Pliskova on Saturday with a new Wimbledon champion guaranteed.

While Barty won the French Open in 2019, she said winning Wimbledon would be a dream she thought might not ever come true after failing to get past the fourth round in four previous main draw appearances on the lawns.

"I wasn't sure if it would ever happen honestly. I think you have to keep putting yourself in the position," said Barty, who won the junior title in 2011 but became disillusioned and took an indefinite break in 2014, aged 19, to pursue a career in her other great love cricket.

"I think Wimbledon for me has been an amazing place of learning. I think 10 years ago I came here for the first time as a junior and learned a lot in that week.

"Probably 2018, 2019 was some of my toughest weeks playing. To come away with our losses in those two tournaments. I think your greatest growth comes from your darkest times."

After a first-round hiccup against Carla Suarez Navarro -- her only dropped set so far -- Barty has looked in the groove.

Yet she admits that the hip injury that forced her out of the French Open had left her appearance in London in doubt.

"I think we had 23 or 24 days in between finishing up in Paris and my first round here. To be honest, it was going to be touch-and-go," Barty said.

"Everything had to be spot on to give myself a chance to play pain-free and to play knowing that I could trust my body. I'm extremely fortunate to have my team around me. They're the best in the business."

Whatever happens against eighth-seed Pliskova, Barty said she will enjoy the experience.

"I think when you're playing in a big match like that, of course there's a lot on the line. It's also very easy for me to fall back on the fact that this is a game of tennis," she said.

"It's also really important to enjoy the moments. I was really able to enjoy myself today right from the start.

"I had a lot of fun and I kind of gave it a crack and gave it my all. To be able to bring a level of tennis like I did was kind of the cherry on top."

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)