From Dream To Reality: Barty Reigns As Wimbledon Ladies’ Champion

Ashleigh Barty (photo: @Wimbledon/Twitter)

LONDON/WASHINGTON, July 10, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

The moment of truth for the Wimbledon Championships – from a draw of 128 women down to two – came on Centre Court Saturday afternoon. A current No. 1, Ashleigh Barty of Australia, and a would-be contender who was a former No. 1, Karolina Pliskova from the Czech Republic, squared off for the Venus Rosewater Dish and the prestige of having their name permanently engraved on the roll of honor wall inside the All England Club.

With two first-time Wimbledon finalists squaring off for the first time since 1977, there was the certainty that a new champion would be crowned. But who?

While there was rain in the London forecast, thankfully, it never came and the ladies’ final was played with the roof open on Centre Court – and with British royalty (the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) and tennis royalty (Hall of Famers Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova) looking on from the Royal Box. There was plenty of enthusiasm – and a touch of nerves, too – on display from both competitors throughout the cloudy afternoon.

One thing was certain, the 25-year-old Barty and Pliskova, 29, while showing contrasting styles, were worthy of playing for the year’s third major title. Everyone had waited 727 days for this moment since Wimbledon 2020 was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Both had been playing their best tennis during the fortnight. Each had won – and survived – six rounds to arrive at the Wimbledon final. However, only one could win it.

The winner would be Barty. Her dream became a reality.

Fifty years after Australian Evonne Goolagong Cawley won the first of her two Wimbledon titles, Barty followed in her mentor’s footsteps, beating Pliskova, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3, in one hour and 56 minutes. Ten years after winning a junior girls’ title, she became the fourth woman in the Open Era, joining Ann Jones, Martina Hingis and Amélie Mauresmo, to win both a junior and women’s Wimbledon singles title.

Barty, a native of Ipswich, Queensland, came in as the first Australian to reach a Wimbledon singles final since 1980. So, it’s only fitting that her victory came on Goolagong Cawley’s Wimbledon golden jubilee – and wearing a tennis dress inspired by the Indigenous Australian champion. She became the third Australian woman in the Open Era after Margaret Court (1970) and Goolagong Cawley (1971, 1980) to win the Wimbledon ladies’ singles title.

After securing match point, Barty bent down and started crying – showing plenty of emotion – something she’s not accustomed to displaying on a tennis court. She was met at the net by Pliskova and they shared a cordial hug and walked off the court together. Soon, it was Barty holding aloft the Venus Rosewater Dish and giving a victory speech before an enthusiastic, sell-out crowd that filled Centre Court.

Before the match, the level-headed Barty, who proved her game is well-suited for grass, said: “My dream is to win Wimbledon, without a doubt. It took a long time for me to say that out loud. It took a long time for me to have the courage to say that out loud. But that’s what I want.”

Now, Barty had finally lived her dream of winning Wimbledon and got to share her thoughts with the world. Pliskova, a worthy runner up, eventually broke down, too, during her on-court interview after receiving her finalist trophy.

“This is incredible,” Barty said during the trophy ceremony. “At the start of the third, I told myself to just keep fighting. She’s an incredible competitor, and she brought out the best in me. It was an exceptional match and I’m really proud that I was able to bring my best level, reset, just keep chipping away and hold my nerve at the end. I can’t thank my team enough, sacrificing their time and energy into my dream.”

The affable Barty put everyone at ease during her Q & A with longtime BBC presenter and former British tennis great Sue Barker, when she was asked to describe match point. “Match point?” Barty asked. “I can’t remember it! Being able to live out my dream with everyone here has made it better than I could ever have imagined. I didn’t sleep a lot last night thinking of all the what-ifs, but coming out on to the Centre Court, I felt at home. And I hope I made Evonne proud.”

Playing both relaxed and disciplined tennis, Barty hit three aces and raced to a 3-0 lead after winning the first 12 points of the match against a flummoxed Pliskova. She continued to put pressure on her opponent, attacking the Czech’s serve by hitting winners from both wings, while taking advantage of some mental breakdowns by Pliskova.

After Barty won the 28-minute first set, Pliskova leveled the next set at 3-all and showed some signs of streaky recovery, winning 10 of 12 points to go ahead. Then, Barty recovered and broke Pliskova, and, soon, found herself serving for the championship at 6-5. However, she wasn’t able to seal the deal and Pliskova sent the championship match to a decider after winning a second-set tie break 7-4.

Onto a third set for the fifth time in their eight meetings – and the first Wimbledon ladies’ three-set title match since 2012 – Barty quickly jumped ahead 3-0. Soon, for the second time, she served for the title at 5-3. This time, Barty’s seventh ace set up match point and she won it all after Pliskova halted a six-shot rally by netting the final shot of the fortnight.

Suddenly, Barty went from calm and composed to tearful joy. All was good. The Barty Party had just begun.

Saturday’s Wimbledon results

Sunday’s Wimbledon order of play

“Quotable …”

“It was the most incredible feeling I’ve ever experienced on a tennis court. There was certainly disbelief. I’ve worked so hard my whole career with my team and with people that mean the most to me to try and achieve my goals.

“For tennis players all over the globe, Wimbledon is where tennis was born. This is where it all started. I understood that as I played here as a junior, and was able to experience that incredible week.

“Some of my toughest moments have come at Wimbledon. Now some of my most incredible moments have come here as well. It’s just an iconic venue, an amazing Club. To be able to learn so much from this place, I think I’m a very lucky girl.”

Ashleigh Barty from her post-match press conference after winning her first Wimbledon crown.

By the numbers

Ashleigh Barty became the first No. 1 seed since Serena Williams in 2016 to win the Wimbledon title. The Wimbledon title is the 12th of Barty’s career and is the fourth she’s won in 2021 following triumphs in the Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne, and at Miami and Stuttgart. Her win-loss record improved to 35-6 this season – best in the WTA.

Karolina Pliskova was the fifth Czech woman to reach the Ladies’ singles final in the Open Era along with Petra Kvitova, Jana Novotna, Hana Mandlikova and Martina Navratilova. While her 230-week streak of being ranked in the Top 10 ended when she fell to World No. 13 the week before Wimbledon began, she will return to World No. 7 when the WTA rankings are updated next week.