By Thomas Cluck
It took Ashleigh Barty years to say
it. To have the belief to verbalize it. To have the confidence to put it out
there for and to the world. To have the supportive team to do it. To have the
confidence and strength and toughness to face her fears, to face failing to do
it, and still say it. Yes, Ash Barty wanted to- more like dreamed of- winning
Wimbledon. Yes, she did.
cool yet introverted, suave yet sweet Aussie utilized her chill persona,
tactful, variety-filled game of slices, volleys, lobs, drop shots, off-pace
balls, kick serves, and heavy forehands, and most important of all, her true
inner confidence to accomplish that dream she set out to achieve. Ash Barty is
the 2021 Wimbledon champion.
the golden 50th anniversary of her tennis mentor and beloved Australian Evonne
Goolagong Cawley’s first of two titles at the All England Club, Barty finished
the job of the woman she seeked to pay homage to, even donning her signature
scalloped skirt, holding off the big serves and flat power tennis of Karolina
Pliskova 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 to show that even in 2021, with all the power and larger
head-size racquets and fancy strings and technology, good ‘ole hands and smarts
can still win tennis matches.
25 year-old Brisbane area native, Barty once struggled under the pressure of
the game as one of its top talents and prodigies. She left the sport. She
purposefully never set high expectations for herself. She didn’t talk herself
up even after winning her first major title at the French Open in 2019. She
tried to remain quiet and stay under the radar. She hoped her nice and friendly
demeanor, even once bringing a baby with her to a particularly tough post-match
press conference following a tough loss as the tournament favorite at her home
Australian Open a year ago, would help her avoid the glare of the spotlight and
criticism that comes with it.
though, the world number one and now two-time Grand Slam champion doesn’t need
to hide. Barty’s confident enough she could express just how badly she dreamed
of winning Wimbledon and lifting that coveted, beautiful Venus Rosewater Dish
and not worry she might one day not. She let her tennis do the talking and for
the entire fortnight, and particularly in two mightily hard final matches this
weekend, it did. That extra gear champions have, that ability to play your best
tennis when the intensity and pressure is at its highest in the finals- Barty
has it. This is a new Ash Barty.
meet Ash Barty 2.0
come out playing impeccable, flawless tennis for the first four games, Barty
didn’t drop a single point until the 15th- yes, FIFTEENTH- point of the match.
She was blanking Pliskova and on the way to a runaway romp. It wasn’t even
the Czech for not being phased and remaining a deer in the headlights. Pliskova
dug in and fought as hard as many have ever seen her and made a match of it,
pushing Barty to the limits of her game. The 29 year-old has tons to be proud
of from this tournament, reestablishing herself amongst the game’s elite once
again and suddenly becoming a contender for the final major of the season, the
U.S. Open, later this summer. Pliskova found her game once again. Barty just
exposed its limits- even at its best.
recovered remarkably from dropping the second set, a set in which she was four
points from this lifelong childhood dream being realized, failing to serve out
the match courtesy of a horrible game from her end. She didn’t let the let down
last for long.
one of the hardest things in tennis, pushing that boulder up the mountain and
coming so close, only to have to do it all over again, Barty just reset, broke
early, and rode that lead the entire way to a clean and fairly comprehensive
final set performance to get to drop to her knees and soak it all in.
childhood dream she finally dared to dream out loud had happened. The
confidence it took to say it won her it too.
Barty, Wimbledon Champion. Bravo.