Ash’s act of pure class after final
AUSTRALIA knew it had something special in Ash Barty and now the rest of the world does too.
The 23-year-old Queenslander produced a brilliant performance in the French Open final to win her maiden grand slam singles title, taking down Marketa Vondrousova 6-1 6-4.
Just as she did in her semi-final, Barty started the match on fire, racing to a 4-0 lead. But unlike her previous match, she didn't suffer from any nerves and she closed out the set without any trouble.
She faced greater resistance from Vondrousova in the second set but stood firm and iced the match.
"It just takes your breath away," one commentator said of Barty's execution and calmness under pressure on ITV's broadcast of the final in the UK.
After hitting a smash winner on match point to become the first person in 46 years from Down Under to win the singles crown at Roland Garros, Barty had just enough breath left to deliver an all-Aussie response, dropping an f-bomb before sinking to her knees in disbelief.
"It's unbelievable, I'm speechless," she said later. "I played the perfect match today.
"To my team, thank you guys for sticking with me. It's been the most amazing journey we've been on the past three years, and I feel like it's just the start.
"Let's go celebrate tonight."
BARTY'S CLASSY TOUCH
Barty was also praised for a moment of pure class when she gave a shout out to countrywoman Sam Stosur - the last Australian to win a major singles title, who lifted the US Open trophy in 2011. Stosur lost the French Open final in 2010 and she wasn't forgotten as Barty received her silverware.
"It's a special place for Australia players," Barty said. "Obviously Sam has done so well and she's been so close before so I'm incredibly proud of what I've been able to achieve and it's been such an incredible two weeks."
Fittingly, it didn't take long for Stosur to send Australia's newest hero some heartwarming words.
"Massive CONGRATULATIONS to @ashbar96 on your incredible win today!" Stosur wrote on Instagram.
"So happy and proud of you!! Always knew you would achieve this incredible success! You have such a gift and determination and now the trophy to show for it all!!"
Barty will rise to No. 2 in the world after her breakthrough major victory, which will be the highest ranking for an Aussie woman since Evonne Goolagong Cawley was No. 1 in 1976. As a fellow indigenous Australian, Barty revealed the special relationship she shares with the tennis icon.
"Evonne sent me a text a couple days ago ... I spotted her name on the trophy," Barty said. "It's amazing what she's done for Indigenous tennis ... hopefully we can continue to create those opportunities for kids to know this (can be) a career."
Barty will be hoping to hit top spot in the rankings herself given the grass court season - her favourite surface - is just around the corner.
VONDROUSOVA PAYS TRIBUTE
Saturday was the first time Vondrousova had ever stepped foot on Court Philippe Chatrier and the occasion clearly got to the Czech teenager. She took too long to get into the match and by the time she found her rhythm, it was too late.
Vondrousova was shattered after the match as tears flowed but she was all class at the post-match presentation, paying tribute to Barty not just as a player but as a person too.
"First of all, congrats Ash and your team, you gave me a lesson today. You're an amazing player and you're such a nice person, so you deserve this," Vondrousova said on court before heaping more praise on Barty in her post-match press conference.
"She was just too good today. I think she plays amazing match. I didn't have too many chances today.
"She was just better at everything today.
"She's playing too good. She's mixing things up. And she has a huge serve.
"So it's all, like, very tough to play against."
TENNIS WORLD SWOONS
Tennis legends and players, both from Australia and overseas, were quick to congratulate Barty.
Aussie legend Rod Laver was watching on in the stands and was quick to pose for a photo with Barty, while a gif of American tennis great Chris Evert giving the Aussie a thumbs up spread like wildfire across the internet.
Madison Keys, who Barty defeated in the quarter-finals, tweeted: "Congrats @ashbar96! Well done on your first grand slam. So well deserved."
Nick Kyrgios also chimed in on Twitter, saying: "Congrats @ashbar96 nothing changed, you were dominating juniors and now winning slams."
'WHAT A STORY'
Barty's win becomes even more significant when you consider she almost gave tennis away for good. Homesick and struggling to deal with the burdens placed on professional players, she left the sport aged 18 in 2014 to try her hand at cricket.
She was part of the Brisbane Heat squad in the Women's Big Bash League (WBBL) and representing Australia in an Ashes Test rather than the Fed Cup looked the more likely prospect.
But tennis was in Barty's blood and she returned to her true love in 2016. Since then, she's risen from world No. 623 to grand slam champion. It's a journey that's had to be seen to be believed.