Ash Barty made history Saturday night in Melbourne becoming the first home singles champion since 1978 after topping Danielle Collins 6-3, 7-6(2).
Barty’s third Grand Slam title was her first at this level on hard court, and first for any female or male Australian in singles since Chris O’Neil won the women’s singles unseeded in 1978.
“This is just a dream come true for me and I’m so proud to be an Aussie,” Barty said.
“It was a little bit surreal,” she said. “I think I didn’t quite know what to do or what to feel, and I think just being able to let out a little bit of emotion, which is a little bit unusual for me. Being able to celebrate with everyone who was there in the crowd, the energy was incredible tonight.
“Being able to understand how much work my team and I have done behind the scenes and over the last few years, to get to this point to be able to have this opportunity was really special. I think it just kind of all came out at once – a really, really special moment.”
The rarely-seen O’Neil was seated in the front row to watch Barty’s bid, and early on the World No. 1 looked on her way to yet another one-sided, dominant win.
Collins, in her first Slam final, missed a break chance at 2-all and then in the next game a double fault gave Barty the break and 4-2. And Barty rode her serve to a set lead after dropping just one point on first set in the opener.
Collins, who had authored two comebacks from a set down in the event, wouldn’t be discouraged. The 28-year-old American came out swinging, breaking Barty in stunning fashion for a 2-0 lead and yet another time to go up 5-1. The raucous pro-Barty crowd 30 minutes earlier was now silent as a prospect of a final set loomed with Collins in full control.
Barty, though, picked herself back up, and worked her way back in, point-by-point. She began finding the range again with her serve and forehand, and with an ace it was suddenly 5-all.
The two would push a breaker, but with the crowd bac on its feet, Barty would not disappoint.
Barty now joins Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic and active player with Slams on all three surfaces.
“There’s still work to be done, without a doubt,” Barty said. “I feel very humble to be in such a select group. To be honest, I don’t really feel like I belong with those champions of our sport. I’m still very much learning and trying to refine my craft every single day and get better and better.
“So to have a Grand Slam title on each surface is pretty amazing. I never thought it would ever happen to me. So very, very lucky and very humbled and privileged to be able to be a part of it,” Barty said.
Collins had an incredible run in her first event of 2022. She will now break into the Top 10 for a first time and rank as the new No. 1 American.
“It’s not easy going out and playing someone pretty much on their home court, on home soil, in the finals of a major, but this is what we live for in sports, right?” Collins said. “These are incredible moments that you don’t get to experience very often. It was a real honor to be out there. I tried to embrace every moment, I tried to get the crowd fired up. I tried to get myself into it, did everything I could.
“I think I went in with the right game plan. I did, again, everything I could, but unfortunately there were some things that were just not working for me. That’s really hard technically, if you’re not in a good place physically, to be able to get yourself to do those things.
“Today my body wasn’t always agreeing with me, and I was in a little bit of a fight with my body, which is to be expected when you go this far in a tournament,” she added. “But I’m just trying to stick with the process and do the best that I can. I’m learning a lot of things along the way. Ash certainly taught me a lot of things today on court.”
The Barty Party is just beginning. Still only 25 and in dominant form, she only needs the US Open to complete the Career Slam. After years of uncertainty, women’s tennis has its clear No. 1.
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