Let The Barty Party Begin! Barty Wins Australian Open

Ashleigh Barty (photo: Fiona Hamilton / Tennis Australia)

MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, January 29, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Australia has an Australian Open singles champion once again. Their 44-year drought is finally over. Let the Barty Party begin!

Saturday evening in Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena, top-seeded Ashleigh Barty defeated No. 27 seed Danielle Collins of the United States, 6-3, 7-6 (2), to become the first Australian to win the Australian Open since unheralded Chris O’Neil won in 1978.

Barty rallied from 1-5 down in the second set, then dominated the tie break. Once she secured championship point, finishing off her victory with a forehand passing shot winner – her 30th winner of the match – Barty let out a big roar in celebration of the moment. Soon after, she embraced her former doubles partner, Casey Dellacqua, a fellow Australian who is now retired and was court side working as a television analyst. It was Barty’s third major title to go with her previous triumphs at the 2019 French Open on clay and at Wimbledon in 2021 on grass.

With the addition of her Australian Open crown – in which she was presented the Daphne Ackhurst Memorial Cup by a legendary Australian champion of an earlier era, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, 70, a four-time Australian Open champion and fellow Indigenous whom Barty shares a close friendship and heritage with – Barty has now won Grand Slams on all three surfaces, including two of the last three awarded. She only lacks a US Open title to complete a career Grand Slam, although she won the 2018 US Open doubles title with Coco Vandeweghe.

“As an Aussie the most important part of this tournament is being able to share it with so many people,” Barty said during the trophy ceremony. “You guys today in the crowd have been nothing shy of exceptional. This crowd is one of the most fun I’ve ever played in front of and you guys brought me so much joy out here today. You relaxed me and you forced me to play my best tennis and against a champion like Danielle. I know I had to absolutely bring that today. …

“This is just a dream come true for me,” Barty added. “And I’m so proud to be an Aussie.”

The five-foot-five-inch Barty, a native of the Australian state of Queensland, has stood tall and proud in her home nation, where she’s a popular champion and public figure. It wasn’t until Saturday night that she finally won a major title in her home nation. The last Australian singles champion, O’Neil, now 65, who was unseeded and ranked outside the Top 100 back in 1978 – and never won another major – was in attendance. Television cameras caught O’Neil cheerfully applauding the new champion.

The 25-year-old Barty dominated throughout the Melbourne fortnight. She didn’t drop a set in any of her seven victories – becoming the first player to win the Australian Open without dropping a set since Serena Williams in 2017. Her serve, which produced 10 aces in the title match, was broken only three times, once during her fourth-round win over another American, Amanda Anisimova, and twice by Collins in the final. Characteristic of Barty’s play, she dominated with a powerful and accurate first serve, with backhand slice returns that always seemed to keep her opponents off-balance and guessing, and with her topspin forehand. Barty’s arsenal of weapons served her well throughout each of her victories.

Against Collins in the final, Barty won 82 percent (31 of 38) of her first-serve points, produced 10 aces, and hit 30 winners to 22 unforced errors. She converted three of five break-point chances and outpointed Collins  71-60. The American won 63 percent (25 of 4o) of her first-serve points, hit 1 ace and 17 winners while committing 22 unforced errors.

En route to winning the 2022 Australian Open title – Barty’s 15th title overall, fourth won on Australian soil and second straight following her Adelaide crown at the start of this season – she’s won 12 of her past 14 finals going all the way back to Miami in 2019. Barty has started the still-young season fast with an 11-match winning streak.

Looking back on the moment of winning her third major title and becoming the first home-grown Australian Open singles champion in nearly five decades, Barty said in press: “It was a little bit surreal. I think I didn’t quite now 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.”

Meanwhile, the 30th-ranked Collins, who will rise in the WTA rankings to No. 10 on Monday, making her the top-ranked American, looked back on her first major final with mixed emotions. However, the 28-year-old American, a two-time NCAA singles champion at the University of Virginia who didn’t not turn professional until she was 22, nevertheless remained prideful of her accomplishments.

“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 during her post-match press conference. “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.”

Collins paid Barty the ultimate compliment while standing on the podium after receiving her runner-up plate. She said of the World No. 1 and new Australian Open champion: “It’s been tremendous to watch her climb the rankings all the way to No. 1 and live out her dream. I really admire you for the player you are and the variety in your game and hopefully I can implement some of that into mine.”

Kokkinakis and Kyrgios win Australian Open men’s doubles title

Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios – known affectionately as the Special Ks – completed their dream run at the Australian Open on Rod Laver Arena Saturday evening. They defeated fellow Aussies Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell, 7-5, 6-4, in an hour and 35 minutes to win the year’s first doubles major.

Kokkinakis and Kyrgios, in their fourth appearance together at a major, had been crowd favorites wherever they played in Melbourne Park throughout the Australian fortnight with their vocal and entertaining style of play. They became the first wild cards to win the event in the Open Era (since 1968) and the first wild cards to win a major since Jonathan Marray and Frederick Nielsen won Wimbledon in 2012.

The victorious Kokkinakis and Kyrgios won after Kokkinakis punched a backhand volley up the middle of the court for a winner. They celebrated their triumph by dropping their racquets and bumping chests before embracing.

“Super tough match but a great week for us,” Kokkinakis said during the on-court trophy ceremony. “Nick, I love you brother! I can honestly say we didn’t expect to come close to [winning] this. It’s been a rough couple of years for me personally, but what a month we’ve had.

“The coverage it got and the support for us, we couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Kyrgios added: “What a week! It’s been a dream come true for me. I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else. Max has been to the final twice, so he’s a hell of a doubles player. Matty’s had a hell of a career, so I’m just super happy.”

En route to the title, Kokkinakis and Kyrgios scored wins over four seeded opponents: Top seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, 15th seeds Ariel Behar and Gonzalo Escobar, sixth seeds Tim Puetz and Michael Venus and third seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos.

This was the second tournament together for Ebden and Purcell after reaching last year’s Australian Open quarterfinals. Three years ago, Purcell was an Australian Open quarterfinalist with Luke Saville.

“They adapted really well,” Ebden said. “Gotta give them credit. We didn’t do too much wrong. They were roping balls, front and center lobs at our toes, smoking huge serves. We sort of did everything we could, but just wasn’t our day.”

Kokkinakis and Kyrgios became the first all-Australian men’s doubles champions at the Australian Open since Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde won in 1997. Woodbridge and Woodforde were on hand to present Kokkinakis and Kyrgios with their champion’s trophy.

Kuzuhara wins Australian Open junior boys’ title

Top seed Bruno Kuzuhara of the United States has become just the fourth American to win the Australian Open junior boys’ title in the Open Era. On Saturday afternoon in Rod Laver Arena, the 17-year-old Kuzuhara defeated No. 4 seed Jakub Mensik of the Czech Republic, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (8), 7-5, in three hours and 43 minutes.

Kuzuhara won when Mensik doubled-faulted on match point before collapsing to the ground with extremed cramping and blurred vision. By the end, Kuzuhara hit 24 winners to 37 for Mensik and outpointed his opponent 144-139.

“It’s a great honor,” Kuzuhara told ITFTennis.com after his victory. “Even now, it is still a surreal feeling and it hasn’t registered properly. But to add my name … is amazing. It was just fantastic to play on Rod Laver today, it was something else.

“When I was walking down the tunnel, all the emotions just overcame me for a bit. But as soon as I stepped in, warmed up, finished the five-minute warm-up, it was game on.”

The victory gave Kuzuhara a sweep of the 2022 Australian Open boys’ singles and doubles titles. He became the first boy to win both the singles and doubles titles in Melbourne since Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic in 2011.

Saturday’s Australian Open results

Sunday’s Australian Open order of play

Around Melbourne Park

By the numbers

• Saturday’s Day 13 attendance at Melbourne Park reached 20,086.

• This was the first all-Australian men’s doubles final at the Australian Open since Mark Edmonton and Kim Warwick defeated Peter McNamara and Paul McNamee in the 1980 championship match.

“Quotable …”

“Casey is my best mate. She was right there, and I knew she was watching the match. I just wanted to give her a hug. She was one of the first people that I could see and give a hug to. I think she’s done so much for me as a person, and not just after big wins.”

Ashleigh Barty of Australian, 2022 Australian Open women’s singles champion, on Casey Dellacqua, her former doubles partner, who is now a tennis commentator on Australian television.