Ashleigh Barty leapt into the Melbourne night, eyes closed and fists clenched, she exulted, ‘yes!’ It reverberated through the city, a country, signaling the end of an anxious 44-year wait for an Aussie to clinch the Australian Open.
“It was a little bit surreal. I didn’t quite know what to do or what to feel,” Barty said of her celebration following the 87-minute final against Danielle Collins. “I let out a bit of emotion and celebrated with the crowd. It all came out at once, a really special moment. The energy was incredible tonight.”

Barty’s sure-footed progress this fortnight, dropping just 21 games en route to the final, upped the ante among fans. The Rod Laver Arena, packed to capacity, was adorned by a pantheon of sporting greats, including the man the house is named after Rod Laver. The presence of Ian Thorpe, Cathy Freeman and the last home champion of the year’s opening major Chris O’Neil charged the evening air with anticipation. Barty, however, carried the weight with a lightness of one born to the stage.
The world No.1’s 6-3, 7-6 (2) win on Saturday was her third Grand Slam title after the French Open and Wimbledon crowns. That she has won three major titles on different surfaces is a tribute to the completeness of the Aussie’s game.

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The final billed as a clash of contrasting styles – Barty’s lucid flair versus Collins’ stubborn fight — got off to an engrossing start. The American had a chance to break in the fifth game, but Barty was quick to shut the front door and in the very next game went ahead when Collins double-faulted.
It appeared that the noisy full-house had settled somewhat by the end of the first set, given that the nation’s darling was in charge of the contest. But Collins, who was struggling with a lower back issue, so much so that she didn’t sit down at change of ends at any time during the tournament, wasn’t going down quietly. She broke twice for a 5-1 lead. As if on call, Barty raised her game, she was not all over the court, but her shots were, creating openings and leaving Collins short.

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Barty won five of the next six games and raised a toast to the stands with a near flawless tie-breaker.
The surprise for the 25-year-old was the presence of her idol — Evonne Goolagong Cawley – the four-time Australian Open champion, who watched the final from a room inside the stadium. Barty teared-up when the 70-year-old walked out for the presentation ceremony where she handed the champion her prize — the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.

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“I thought she wasn’t coming, I’d spoken to her earlier in the week, she said she was staying at home and was not able to travel down this year,” Barty said, her eyes lighting up. “To have that surprise was amazing.”
Collins, who is struggling with a lower back issue, applauded the champion. “It’s pretty clear with her success over the last couple of years where she ranks. I mean, No. 1 in the world, right? She’s playing incredible tennis,” the American said, adding for herself, “I did everything that I could. I gave myself a chance there in the end, unfortunately it didn’t go my way.”

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