Brilliant Barty ends 44-year drought with Open triumph

Ashleigh Barty d. Danielle Collins 6-3, 7-6 (7-2)

World No.1 Ashleigh Barty has finally put to bed one of the biggest droughts in Australian sport, a 44-year wait for a new home-grown Australian Open singles champion, defeating American Danielle Collins in an absorbing women’s final.

The Australian was victorious in straight sets but it was the manner in which the 25-year-old rallied from a seemingly down-and-out position in the second set to recover and close it out without the need for a decider that will be remembered for years, if not decades, to come.

Barty clinched the victory 6-3, 7-6 (7-2) in one hour and 27 minutes, adding the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup to her Wimbledon and Roland Garros trophies secured in 2021 and 2019 respectively.

A season-ending world No.1 for the past three years, Barty is the undisputed top player in women’s tennis and is now the reigning champion at two of the sport’s four major events.

After match point, an overjoyed Barty let out a roar and looked to her trusted team in the stands. Close friend and former doubles partner Casey Dellacqua, working courtside for Channel Nine, soon got a hug.

Barty won each of her seven matches in Melbourne in straight sets, losing just 30 games across the tournament, reminiscent of the way Serena Williams dominated both the 2012 and 2013 US Opens.

Ash Barty celebrates after defeating Danielle Collins in the women’s singles final.Credit:Eddie Jim

In a sometimes topsy-turvy final, Barty rallied from 5-1 down in the second set to force it to a tiebreaker. From that juncture, Barty went into a realm of her own in the ’breaker, winning the first point on the Collins serve.

A big forehand winner made it 3-0 to Barty and the end was suddenly nigh. Then, in the winner of the match, Barty reached for an overhead winner when the point appeared lost. At 4-0 and with the momentum, the title was effectively won.

Twice Collins had the chance to serve for the second set and twice she couldn’t quite get it done. The first time, at 5-1 up, Collins dropped her guard and after falling to 15-40, putting down a double fault.

The lure of a straight-sets triumph was still alive for Barty.

Then, at 5-3, Barty got things back on level terms, retrieving the situation after a double break.

At 30-15, and with Collins just two points shy of officially levelling the match, a terrific Barty forehand winner put all the pressure back on her opponent.

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Only two points later, a wonderful change of direction by Barty on her forehand secured her another break point.

Ash Barty with the trophy.Credit:Eddie Jim

Simply, Barty was stepping up at critical moments.

Collins can hold her head high after an excellent tournament, but she will rue the way the match slipped away from her.

Each big moment for her – a saved break point, a backhand winner, a driving forehand that simply forced Barty to run and think about the next shot – was met with a fist pump and a vocal and energetic ‘C’mon’ from the American, a more-than-gentle reminder of the last Australian to reach a singles final at Melbourne Park, Lleyton Hewitt in 2005.

The 6-3 first set didn’t precisely follow the template set by Barty across six rounds, but it was close.

Done and dusted in 32 minutes, Barty didn’t squander her chances.

Ash Barty stretches for the ball.Credit:Eddie Jim

At this rate, Barty was on track to at least go close to matching her average of 61 minutes per match.

Having achieved the only break of serve and then proceeding to 5-3, Barty put together a stylish service game, holding it to love and clinching the set in the best way – with an ace down the centre.

Earlier, the tempo switched a notch in the fifth game when Barty, under a touch of pressure on serve and down a break point, simply steadied and forced an error on the Collins racquet.

The Queenslander capitalised on her chance, pouncing on the American and getting it to 30-40. With the pressure rising, Collins stepped up to the service line and double-faulted. It was telling.

Danielle Collins fought strongly after dropping the first set.Credit:AP

Advantage Barty. The crowd could sense that Barty, so far at least, was ready for this moment and, more importantly, the pressure of the occasion.

Less than 25 minutes in, Barty was in her rhythm. Within a few more minutes, however, Barty consolidated her break in style, dropping just the one point on serve to make it 5-2.

The match was playing out to the template she had set en route to the finals.

Collins, however, showed she wasn’t going to be a pushover, keeping her composure and starting the second set with a solid service game. She was on the board and still in the contest.

Then things got interesting. Having eked her way to 15-40 on the Barty serve, Collins suddenly had a chance – an all-elusive break point. She used it well, delivering an overhead winner at the net and an exultant cry to her team in the stands.

Importantly, Collins consolidated, saving two break points of her own. A 3-0 second-set lead, the American sent more than one shiver down the spines of the Barty faithful on centre court.

Next up, however, Barty reminded her opponent of her standing and reputation, holding to love.

The match began at 7.44pm under Melbourne’s grey skies, not a common sight throughout the previous week in a tournament that will be remembered for hot but not arduous conditions.

Importantly, the roof was open with only a small chance of rain possible. There was a swirly breeze, but seemingly not enough to overly affect either player’s service motion.

For Barty, it didn’t matter either way.

Watch all the action from Melbourne Park on Nine, 9Gem, and 9Now.

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