Ash Barty will no longer need to overthink the 1970s when she prepares for the Australian Open.
The top-ranked Barty recovered from 5-1 down in the second set to beat Danielle Collins 6-3, 7-6 (2) in the final on Saturday night, ending a 44-year drought for Australian women at their home Grand Slam tournament.
Barty is the first Australian women’s singles champion since Chris O’Neil in 1978. She was the first homegrown player to reach the final since Wendy Turnbull in 1980.
The pressure is off the 25-year-old Aussie, who has made a remarkable career comeback after taking time off — missing every Grand Slam tournament in 2015 and ’16 — and briefly flirting with taking up a professional cricket career after three first-round exits at the majors in 2014.
Barty now has Grand Slam singles titles on three surfaces, adding the hard court at Melbourne Park to her win on grass at Wimbledon last year and on clay at the 2019 French Open. She joins Serena Williams as the only active players on the women’s tour with majors on all three surfaces.
“This is just a dream come true for me,” the 25-year-old Barty said. “I’m just so proud to be an Aussie.”
Evonne Goolagong Cawley, a tennis icon with seven Grand Slam singles titles and a trailblazer for Indigenous athletes from Australia, was a surprise guest to present the champion’s trophy to Barty, who is part of a new generation of Indigenous stars.O’Neil was involved in the night, too, after carrying the trophy into the stadium for the pre-match ceremony.
“I’m an incredibly fortunate and lucky girl to have so much love in my corner,” Barty said, thanking her coach and support team, her family, the tournament organizers and the crowd.
Barty hadn’t dropped a set and had only conceded one service game through six matches, against American Amanda Anisimova in the fourth round.
The 28-year-old Collins was the fourth American to take on Barty in four consecutive rounds. Barty had beaten Anisimova, Jessica Pegula and 2017 U.S. Open runner-up Madison Keys in straight sets.
Collins had spent more than four hours longer on court than Barty in her previous six matches, having to come back from a set and break down to beat Danish teenager Clara Tauson in the third round and rally from a set down to beat Elise Mertens in the fourth.
Barty took the first set after saving a break point in the fifth game and then breaking in the next.
Not to be outdone, Collins hit back quickly, unloading with her powerful ground strokes and relying on her high-intensity game, breaking Barty’s serve in the second and sixth games to take a 5-1 lead.
Collins twice served for the set and twice was within two points of leveling the match and taking her first Grand Slam final to a deciding set.
She led 30-0 in the seventh game of the set, but started to lose momentum when Barty jumped on a second serve and sent a return winner down the line. Another forehand winner just caught the baseline and then Barty got a breakpoint chance with another powerful forehand.
Collins went to the chair umpire to complain about people making noise during the point and got booed heavily by the crowd. The umpire asked fans to refrain from shouting during play, as a courtesy to both players.
When Collins hit a backhand wide to drop the game, she got another loud boo from the crowd.