Close friends, Ashleigh Barty (right) with Evonne Goolagong Cawley, both indigenous tennis stars. Picture: Glenn Barnes
Close friends, Ashleigh Barty (right) with Evonne Goolagong Cawley, both indigenous tennis stars. Picture: Glenn Barnes

The texts that inspired proud indigenous star Ash Barty

Ashleigh Barty is proudly indigenous and friends with fellow Aboriginal tennis great Evonne Goolagong Cawley.

After Barty won the French Open in straight sets this morning, she is now aiming to repeat Goolagong Cawley's 1971 feat of backing up a French Open title with Wimbledon.

Barty, a Ngaragu woman, and Goolagong Cawley, from the Wiradjuri people, have been close since Barty's junior career, with Goolagong Cawley inspiring and encouraging her through the up and down times since.

After becoming only the fourth Australian woman to win on clay at Roland Garros, notching up her maiden Grand Slam, Barty paid tribute to Goolagong Cawley.

"Evonne sent me a text a couple of days ago and said this was her first slam and spotted her name on the trophy," Barty told reporters at the post-match press conference in Paris.

"It's amazing how she's created this path for indigenous tennis in Australia and I think now it's becoming more nationwide.

"There's more opportunities for kids to play tennis, both male and female, and I hope we can continue to create those opportunities and let kids know that this is an option for a career. And even if it's not, it's a sport that they can play for life."

In turn, Goolagong Cawley and her husband Roger stayed up all night watching Barty's win and exchanging international calls, and passing on their congratulations to the new star in Paris.

"Ash has already heard from me and knows how happy I am for her and her lovely

family," Goolagong Cawley told SBS.

Tennis legend Evonne Goolagong Cawley (right) has become good mates with fellow indigenous star, Ash Barty. Picture: Glenn Barnes
Tennis legend Evonne Goolagong Cawley (right) has become good mates with fellow indigenous star, Ash Barty. Picture: Glenn Barnes

Goolagong Cawley told AP Barty's 6-1 6-3 win over 19-year-old unseeded Czech Marketa Vondrousova in just under an hour was "a joy to watch".

"What a wonderful result for Australia and how exciting that another Aboriginal

has won at the French," Cawley said.

"I'm almost scared to say it but it's now 48 years ago I won my first slam there, too.

"Tennis Australia and lovers of tennis here and around the world will be delighted by the natural skills and flair Ash possesses.

"Now they have developed into a beautiful game full of artistry, movement and power. It was there for all to marvel at in Paris. She is a joy to watch."

With almost five decades between their French Open wins, the endearing friendship between Barty and Goolagong Cawley might seem surprising.

But Barty idolises the 67-year-old Grand Slam champ, who can take some credit for the younger's path to greatness.

Over the past half decade, Goolagong Cawley has mentored Barty and the pair exchange regular texts and phone calls.

In 2014, the junior Wimbledon champion decided, aged 18, to take a break after suffering depression and loneliness from the pressure of travel on the WTA tour.

Barty kisses the French Open trophy after defeating Marketa Vondrousova 6-1 6-3 in under an hour. Picture: Clive Mason
Barty kisses the French Open trophy after defeating Marketa Vondrousova 6-1 6-3 in under an hour. Picture: Clive Mason

Goolagong Cawley sent Barty a message of support, texting "Hey, darl, good decision. Go and wet a line."

Barty famously spent two years playing cricket, playing for Brisbane Heat in the women's Big Bash League before returning to tennis just three years ago.

Despite vastly different eras and family backgrounds, the careers and the playing styles of the two indigenous tennis stars began to align some time before that.

Born in 1996 to Jodie, a radiographer, and Robert, a government worker, Ashleigh Barty is the youngest of three great granddaughters on her father's side of a Ngaragu woman from southern NSW and northeastern Victoria.

The 23-year-old has formally registered with the Ngaragu clan, and happily refers to her own "squished nose and olive complexion".

Evonne Goolagong Cawley was born in 1951 to Melinda and Kenny Goolagong, an itinerant sheep shearer and grew up in Barellan, NSW.

Despite discrimination against Aboriginals in rural Australia at the time, she was encouraged to play on local courts, talent spotted as a teen, and brought to Sydney to finish school and play tennis.

Evonne Goolagong Cawley won seven Grand Slam singles titles, and reached 18 Grand Slam singles finals.

Evonne Goolagong playing in the French Open, which she won in 1971 and went on to win Wimbledon four weeks later. Picture: AP
Evonne Goolagong playing in the French Open, which she won in 1971 and went on to win Wimbledon four weeks later. Picture: AP

She won the Australian Open four times, Wimbledon twice, the French Open once.

Her second Wimbledon win, in 1980 nine years after her first, was even more remarkable because she was only the second woman to have done so after giving birth to a child.

Goolagong Cawley is 12th on the women's list of all-time singles grand slam winners, level with Venus Williams, and ended her career with 82 singles titles.

Made Australian of the year, awarded an MBE and an AO, Goolagong Cawley was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame and the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

But Goolagong Cawley, who was not an avid tennis watcher even in her playing days, had largely stopped watching the game.

That is until an up and coming junior tennis star called Ashleigh Barty reignited Goolagong Cawley's interest.

In 2011, a 15-year-old Barty won the girls' title at Wimbledon.

Goolagong Cawley had watched Barty play during the Australian Open, and thought of her as a role model for other young indigenous tennis players.

"I just saw one game and I thought, 'that's it, she's got it'," Goolagong Cawley said at the time, "It was great to see somebody play with so many skills."

In March this year, on International Women's Day when she was ranked as world number 12 in women's tennis, Barty was asked "who inspired you?"

Ashleigh Barty after winning the girls' singles final at Wimbledon in 2011. Picture: Anja Niedringhaus.
Ashleigh Barty after winning the girls' singles final at Wimbledon in 2011. Picture: Anja Niedringhaus.

She replied: "Evonne Goolagong Cawley has inspired me on and off the tennis court since I was a young girl.

"Evonne's outstanding achievements and her passion for helping the indigenous community are two things I admire. I feel grateful for our friendship."

In April this year, Barty dared to dream of winning Australia's first Fed Cup title in 45 years, attempting to match Evonne Goolagong Cawley's triumph.

Barty said it would be special to clinch Australia's first title since 1974, a campaign powered by the former world number one.

"It's pretty special for me personally, to know Evonne was in that last team that had won a Fed Cup," she said at the time.

"We've still got a long way to go. But I can guarantee that all four of us and the wider team are doing everything possible to give ourselves a chance."

After Barty won the 2017 Newcombe Medal for Australian tennis achievement (she won it again last year), Goolagong Cawley said: "When I watch Ash play now, it makes me want to play again.

"She has all the skills of becoming a real champion. She has the hands and she has the power. A volley and a big serve.

"The way she's going now, it (a major title) is possible one day. I watch her and I think, 'Wow, that must feel good'."

In a video interview with Tennis Australia in April, Goolagong Cawley predicted Barty could go "all the way".

"She's got so much more confidence now than I've ever seen in her," Goolagong Cawley said

"She seems to be really enjoying it out there.

"It's such a pleasure to see someone with that many skills come back into the game.

"I mean, I don't watch much tennis these days.

"I do watch Federer because of his skills and everything, and now Ash.

"I sort of felt for every stroke out there tonight.

"Sliced backhands, great hands, she really has, yeah fantastic.

"That was something I enjoyed during my career was a sliced backhand so every time I saw her do that I thought, oh that must have felt good.

"She's amazing and I think she can go all the way."

Ash Barty has become the world number two overnight and will play at Wimbledon in England next month.

candace.sutton@news.com.au

Ash Barty receives her French Open trophy from the legendary Chris Evert at Roland Garros stadium in Paris, becoming the fourth Australian woman to win there. Picture: Clive Mason
Ash Barty receives her French Open trophy from the legendary Chris Evert at Roland Garros stadium in Paris, becoming the fourth Australian woman to win there. Picture: Clive Mason
Evonne wins the French Open in 1971 after defeating Helen Gourlay (right) Picture: UPI
Evonne wins the French Open in 1971 after defeating Helen Gourlay (right) Picture: UPI
Close mates Evonne Goolagong Cawley with Ash Barty at women’s Brisbane International trophy tournament named after Goolagong Cawley. Picture: Jono Searle
Close mates Evonne Goolagong Cawley with Ash Barty at women’s Brisbane International trophy tournament named after Goolagong Cawley. Picture: Jono Searle
Ash Barty’s father Robert, whose grandmother was a Ngaragu woman from the NSW-Victoria border.
Ash Barty’s father Robert, whose grandmother was a Ngaragu woman from the NSW-Victoria border.
Proudly indigenous, Ashleigh Barty (above) teaching kids how to play tennis. Picture: Instagram
Proudly indigenous, Ashleigh Barty (above) teaching kids how to play tennis. Picture: Instagram
Ashleigh Barty as a child tennis prodigy. Picture: Instagram
Ashleigh Barty as a child tennis prodigy. Picture: Instagram
Barty dazzling on the clay in Paris. Picture: Julian Finney
Barty dazzling on the clay in Paris. Picture: Julian Finney

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