Ash Barty downs Pliskova to become 1st Aussie woman to win Wimbledon in 41 years

Ash Barty became the first Australian woman to win Wimbledon for 41 years on Saturday as she beat Karolina Pliskova in a dramatic final.

Barty, the world No. 1 from Queensland, outclassed her Czech opponent on Centre Court to win a second Grand Slam title of her career and become the first Aussie woman to win The Championships since Evonne Goolagong defeated Chris Evert in the 1980 final.

A nerve-jangling 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 win in an hour and 52 minutes saw her become just the fourth woman to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish – after Ann Jones, Martina Hingis and Amelie Mauresmo – to lift the ladies’ singles title having previously won junior Wimbledon.

Emotions were flowing after the final point. She struggled to fight back the tears, bending to her knees in the middle of the court before climbing into the stands to embrace her team.

Having taken a year out of the sport – choosing to remain in Australia rather than return to the tour amid the ongoing pandemic – there were question marks over whether Barty deserved to remain as the sport’s No. 1 player.

But Barty – who won the first 14 points of the match – has answered those critics with a Wimbledon win to back up her 2019 French Open triumph.

While Naomi Osaka may have established herself as the best hard-court player in the women’s game, Barty, 25, surely has to be viewed as the best on the natural surfaces and was robbed of a chance to regain her Roland Garros title last month due to injury.

There were no signs of the left hip problem that saw her retire in the second round in Paris at the All England Club this fortnight as she dropped just two sets on her way to the title.

This was a second Grand Slam final defeat for Pliskova – who was beaten in three sets by Angelique Kerber at the 2016 US Open – and the 29-year-old will rise to No. 7 in the WTA rankings after a run to the final.

The first set was a disastrous showing from the 29-year-old, who remains one of three female players – along with Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina – to have reached world No. 1 but not won a major title.

She improved greatly to force a decider after claiming the second in a tiebreak. But, in truth, the match always felt like Barty’s to lose and she roared back in the third.

Barty – one of four Australian Wimbledon women’s singles champions in the Open Era – settled by far the quicker. She won the first 14 points of the match – halfway to a golden set – including a sumptuous lob winner to take a 0-30 lead on the Pliskova serve.

It took only six minutes for her to fall 3-0 down and despite winning a first point of the match on the 15th – earning a patronising cheer from the Centre Court crowd – it still didn’t stop her being a double break down by the 11th minute after a double fault.

For everything an overawed Pliskova was doing wrong, Barty – who had won five of their seven previous meetings – was displaying her skilful best.

Wicked backhand slices fizzed over the nets and she probed devastatingly with the forehand, leaving Pliskova horribly exposed.

Settling in, Pliskova broke to love in the fifth game, although Barty lended a helping hand with some wild forehand misses.

It proved to be a brief reprieve as she sent a forehand long a game later to fall 5-1 down after 20 minutes.

Pliskova was struggling to dictate on her serve but was at least getting some joy on return games. With Barty serving for the set, she crunched a forehand return winner cross-court to break for a second game in a row.

In the eighth game, with members of the crowd still desperately urging her on with cries of, “Come on, Karolina”, she finally held – and comfortably, to love.

The damage had been done, though, following a dismal start and Barty served out a 6-3 lead after 28 minutes. Given how the match began, that scoreline could have been a lot, lot worse.

Pliskova started the second set with a hold but was broken to love in her next service game, with the match fast slipping from her grasp.

She put up a fight, however, breaking to love again as Barty sent a forehand into the net, with the crowd sensing there may be a route back into the match for the eighth seed.

Pliskova was striking the ball much cleaner now and dictating points with a forehand that had been such a weapon throughout this tournament, while Barty was allowing more errors to slip off her racquet.

The Czech waved her arms in frustration as back-to-back challenges showed her opponent had clipped the outside of the line in the seventh game of the second set but she was well in this set as both held for 5-5.

In the next game, Pliskova invited pressure by dumping a volley into the net on the first of three game points as she was dragged to deuce before a wild forehand flew miles past the baseline to give her opponent break point.

The crowd gave her a huge round of applause as she prepared to serve break point down but a backhand dumped into the net surrendered the break.

It was a nervous finish from Barty, who was broken after sending back-to-back forehands long as she failed to serve the match out.

The noise levels ramped up to new highs in the seventh point of the tiebreak – the point of the match. Barty reacted quickly to a net cord and returned with a drop-shot, which was chased down by Pliskova who lobbed expertly before then smashing Barty’s retrieval home.

Four set points were available for the Czech and she converted the second without hitting a ball as Barty limply doublefaulted.

The third started in painful fashion for Pliskova. She fell three break points down in her opening service game and gifted Barty the second by dumping a forehand volley sitter into the net.

Barty service games still remained edgy and a netted drive volley handed Pliskova another break point in the ninth game but she kept her cool to finally serve out the title.

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