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Ash Barty Wins Wimbledon 2021 • 50th Anniversary Of Evonne Goolagong’s Championship Win

Ashleigh Barty raised the Rosewater Dish 50 years after her tennis hero, Evonne Goolagong, won the 1971 Wimbledon championships. EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL EDITORIAL USE ONLY

By Alix Ramsay

It was meant to be. From the moment Ash Barty announced that she was going for Wimbledon this year, that she wanted to win this thing that every young player dreams of as they pick up their first racket, to the moment she unveiled her Wimbledon outfit, it was meant to be.

That outfit was inspired by the Teddy Tinling creation that Evonne Goolagong wore 50 years ago to win her first Wimbledon title. Goolagong is one of the indigenous people of Australia, a Wiradjuri woman; Barty is a Ngaragu woman, an ancestry that traces back to her great-grandmother. And Goolagong is Barty’s mentor.

Of course, the stars were aligned: the 50th anniversary of Goolagong’s win and the world No.1’s first serious tilt at the Wimbledon title. And of course, she won; she beat Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 in a little under two hours of tense, nervy and unpredictable tennis. It was not a final to remember for its fabulous tactics, execution or beauty but it was enthralling nonetheless.

“To be able to be successful here at Wimbledon,” Barty said, “to achieve my biggest dream, has been absolutely incredible. The stars aligned for me over the past fortnight. Incredible that it happened to fall on the 50th Anniversary of Evonne’s first title here, too, is absolutely incredible.

“Evonne is a very special person in my life. I think she has been iconic in paving a way for young indigenous youth to believe in their dreams and to chase their dreams. She’s done exactly that for me as well.

“I think being able to share that with her and share some pretty special victories now with her, to be able to create my own path is really incredible, really exciting.

“She’s just been an icon for years and years, not just on the tennis court. Her legacy off the court is incredible. I think if I could be half the person that Evonne is, I’d be a very, very happy person.”

The look on her face suggested that she was already a very, very happy person. At the end of the match, she did what Australians do after winning Wimbledon finals: she climbed up to the players’ box to hug her team and her boyfriend.

Ashleigh Barty of Australia reacts after winning her women’s final match against Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic at Wimbledon. EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL

Following the path taken by Pat Cash back in 1987, she headed up and over the TV commentary box to find herself … all alone. It was the wrong players’ box. Down she came again to be redirected into the arms of her inner circle. Then the tears flowed, the hugs grew tighter and the realisation of what she had just achieved began to hit her.

“It was the most incredible feeling I think I’ve ever experienced on a tennis court,” she said. “There was certainly disbelief. I think 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 and my dreams. To be able to do that today was incredible.”

Pliskova played her part in the drama. Felled by nerves at the start, she managed to find some semblance of her game in the second set – and a few breath-taking rallies – only to be rooted to the spot by those nerves again at the start of the third. But Barty was nervy, too, and serving for the match in the second set, she was broken. Trying to close it out in the tiebreak, she was tight. Only in the third was she able to get the early lead and stay one step ahead of her rival until the finish line.

The crowd took Barty to their hearts – she is down to earth, humble, normal… she is what the world expects every Aussie sports star to be. And then some. But in Pliskova, they saw a woman who owns up to her own frailties and accepts them – “I know how to lose, believe me; I’m so good at that,” she said with a smile having lost her second grand slam final – but she also fights.

She could have crumbled in the second set or the third. But she didn’t – and the crowd loved her for it. She got a huge ovation as she went through her on-court interview and that brought her to tears, but not tears of pity. She was just emotionally spent after a long two weeks.

“To know how to win and to know how to lose, you need to learn that,” she said. “I think all the big champions and all the big names, they need to learn this. They need to know how to lose. In the end somebody has to lose.

“I think also to accept that maybe somebody played better that day, or somebody is a bit better, for no matter for which reason, I think is also important. Yeah, I just know how to do that.”

She also knew that this was Barty’s day; it was a day for the indigenous people of Australia to celebrate and it was a day that was just meant to be.