Australian Open: Ash Barty ends 44-year wait for home champion

Tennis - Australian Open - Women's Singles Final - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 29, 2022 Australia's Ashleigh Barty celebrates winning the final against Danielle Collins of the U.S. with the trophy

Tennis – Australian Open – Women’s Singles Final – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia – January 29, 2022 Australia’s Ashleigh Barty celebrates winning the final against Danielle Collins of the U.S. with the trophy REUTERS/Loren Elliott

MELBOURNE—Ash Barty tamed big-hitting American Danielle Collins to win the Australian Open on Saturday and end the home nation’s 44-year wait for a singles champion.

Barty’s adoring fans, many of them in green and gold, flocked to Melbourne Park in anticipation of celebrating ‘Australia Day’ for a second time in three days.

The 25-year-old did not disappoint and she had fans all around Australia roaring and jumping for joy when she fought back from 5-1 down in the second set to complete a 6-3 7-6(2) victory and win her third Grand Slam title.

She became the first Australian to be crowned singles champion at the Grand Slam since Chris O’Neil captured the women’s title in 1978.

O’Neil was present in the stands cheering as the crowd on the flooodlit Rod Laver Arena erupted when Barty converted her first match point with a forehand crosscourt winner and screamed “Yes” in delight.

Fittingly, organizers had arranged for Barty to receive the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup from her idol, mentor and fellow indigenous Australian, Evonne Goolagong Cawley.

“This is a dream come true for me, and I am so proud to be an Aussie,” said Barty, who teared up when Goolagong Cawley was announced as the trophy presenter.

Barty has now won a Grand Slam on three different surfaces, with 23-time major champion Serena Williams the only other active female player to have achieved the feat.

Australian great Rod Laver approved.

“A Grand Slam champion on three different surfaces, you are the complete player @AshBarty and I am so happy for you tonight,” tweeted Laver, who watched on from the stands of the arena that is named after him.

Barty came into the contest having won 11 of her past 13 finals and had conceded just 21 games during the past fortnight, dropping serve only once. She also had a 3-1 head-to-head lead against the 28-year-old American.

But it was Collins who was the first to set up a break point in the match with some forceful groundstrokes.

A calm and composed Barty found the range with her serve to get out of trouble and then nosed ahead by breaking Collins in the next game when her opponent served up a double fault.

If Barty believed she would cruise to victory, there was more drama and more fight left in Collins.

Tennis – Australian Open – Women’s Singles Final – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia – January 29, 2022 Australia’s Ashleigh Barty shakes hands with Danielle Collins of the U.S. after winning the final REUTERS/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake

Some uncharacteristic forehand errors from Barty allowed Collins, who will make her top-10 debut when the rankings are updated on Monday, to break early in the second set.

The American let out a shriek of “Come On” to celebrate opening up a 3-0 lead.

The American broke Barty’s delivery, which looked almost impregnable this past fortnight, a second time in the set.

But when Collins appeared to be on the verge of levelling the match as she served at 5-1, the Australian showed nerves of steel and raised her game.

Barty got the set back on serve and then dominated the tiebreak to complete a memorable comeback that left the home nation rejoicing.

“As an Aussie, the most important part of this is being able to share it, and you guys have been nothing short of exceptional,” an emotional Barty said on court.

“This crowd is one of the most fun I have ever played in front of … you relaxed me and forced me to play my best tennis. Against a champion like Danielle I had to bring that today.”

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