Ash Barty has joined tennis legends Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Serena Williams in securing the women’s year-end world No.1 ranking for at least three straight seasons.
I managed to tune in to Ash Barty versus Angelique Kerber midway through the first set.
At that point in the match Barty looked in control. She easily accounted for the former world number one and three-time slam winner Angelique Kerber in the first set. Barty looked to be in the zone and on her way to an easy victory.
But Kerber turned it around early in the second set cruising to 3-0 in no time. It was not surprising considering the 33-year-old has hoisted the winners trophy at the Australian Open and US Open grand slams and as recently as 2018 won Wimbledon.
What was interesting during this short period of dominance from Kerber is the reactions from Barty when she’d lose a point or game: a quick head bow of disappointment that seemed to last a micro second, then straight back to her routine.
There was no moping around, no talking tersely to herself about her minor failures and most interesting of all, no signs of her having to mentally encourage herself back into the match.
This little Aussie champion fears no one.
She has no need to find something extra to stop the doubt creeping in. There’s a belief in her game so much that every lost point is just a blip in the game plan and the next point is going to be hers.
When I watch her play, I don’t see a big weapon. The serve, the forehand and the backhand aren’t anything to be feared by other players.
This, in contrast, could be seen when Barty went to Kerber’s forehand. The ball regularly came of Kerber’s forehand with a venom that Barty doesn’t posses. Though I will note Barty’s slice backhand has a level of control that regularly turns a point she’s behind in back to level terms.
Barty’s weapon is between her ears: a mental fortitude that is a breath of fresh air after a decade of watching Australian men with a mountain of talent but who are so mentally weak. So many times we’ve watched them crumble when put out of their comfort zone. Not with Barty.
If Novak Djokovic has wolf blood in him, Barty is more like the mongoose fighting the cobra. Even without the big weapon in the arsenal, she’s unrelenting, always coming at her opponents until they break.
She fears no one.
Throughout that second set, every time she lost a point during the period she found herself down 3-0, then 5-2, the sense of focus on her face never changed. I could see this was a woman with a determination to win not seen regularly in Australian tennis since Lleyton Hewitt was in his prime.
Never relenting, she clawed her way back into the match, breaking Kerber as she served for the second set and dragging it back to a tie break. The momentum had swung so heavily, Barty found herself up 6-0 in the tie break and closed it out 7-3 to book her first Wimbledon final.
The Australian sporting public don’t expect our tennis stars to be world beaters at every turn. To give it your best and to never give up is a quality we yearn for over any other.
Such mental courage is admired more than a booming serve or deadly forehand. Nothing stirs the emotions more than an Aussie sports person digging deep and overcoming the odds.
Barty has it in spades and is someone we can all get behind in such trying times. She’s exactly what Australia needs right now.