Ash Barty's Once In A Lifetime Achievement

This image is a derivative of Sydney International Tennis WTA Premier by Rob Keating (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Ash Barty has given Australia an iconic sports moment and tennis a towering feat of strength 

As an American, I’m not familiar with or highly knowledgeable about cricket, much as a British lad isn’t terrifically familiar with the nuances of baseball, the game played on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. I do know however that in cricket there’s a big event called The Ashes. 

The 2022 Australian Open was a big event: It can be called Ash’s. It belongs to Ash Barty and Australia, bathing in the glory and joy of an Australian winning this women’s tournament for the first time since Chris O’Neil in 1978. 

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Barty had already stamped herself as an Australian sports icon with her Roland Garros title and her Wimbledon championship which enabled her to follow in the footsteps of another Australian tennis legend, Evonne Goolagong, who was on hand in Melbourne at the post-match trophy ceremony. Yet, winning the Australian Open and becoming the first Australian to win a home-nation major in 44 years lifts Barty’s career to an even higher place in the pantheon.  

Wimbledon, the crown jewel of tennis. The Australian Open, the home-nation major. Championships on each of the three different surfaces at major tournaments. Barty’s career has many years ahead of it, but the future can wait. This is already a noticeably complete career with a well-rounded set of achievements. Barty was already the best and most consistent player on tour last spring. The only real gap in her career was a large stack of major-tournament achievements. She had 2019 at Roland Garros, and that was it.  

Could she follow the great Australian champions of the past and break through at Wimbledon? Could she do what Sam Stosur could not – handle the heat in her home-nation major tournament – and give Australians an elusive yet longed for tennis celebration in a January summertime? 

Yes, she could. 

The image of Barty and Goolagong, together, both touching the Australian Open championship trophy inside Rod Laver Arena, is an image Australians will never forget. 

There is poetry in this moment, and the fact that Barty won the Open this year, not any other year. Stosur, mentioned above, played her last Australian Open singles match in 2022. The 2011 U.S. Open champion beat Serena Williams for her one major singles title. This Australian Open final between Barty and Danielle Collins was the first Australian-versus-American women’s singles major final since that Stosur-Williams match. 

Stosur’s noted struggles at the Australian Open in the years after she won that 2011 U.S. Open title underscored how hard it is even for major champions to handle pressure at their home-nation majors. 

This isn’t just an Australian thing, of course. England hasn’t had a Wimbledon women’s singles champion since Virginia Wade in 1977. Maybe Emma Raducanu can break that duck in the coming years, but it won’t be easy.  

In France, we remember Amelie Mauresmo winning two majors – including the Australian Open – in 2006, but never being able to win her home-nation major. Mary Pierce in 2000 is the last Frenchwoman to cross the threshold at Roland Garros. Marion Bartoli reached the semifinals in Paris but could never get to the final, let alone win it. 

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It took 44 years for Australia to find another Open champion. England is at 45 years this year, France at 22. Those basic facts affirm the point that it’s extremely hard to deal with the pressure attached to a home-nation major. It has taken a champion of Serena Williams’ stature (Venus Williams before her) to make winning the U.S. Open seem normal. Serena and Venus are, of course, exceptional tennis figures. 

Winning home-nation majors is hellaciously difficult.  

Ashleigh Barty just pulled off the feat without losing any of the 14 sets she played over the past fortnight in Melbourne Park. 

It’s hard to express just how much strength and toughness it took for Barty to develop herself into the kind of player who could forge such an iconic Australian sports moment. Therefore, simply let that last sentence speak for itself. 

Barty made something extremely difficult – something no Australian had done in nearly half a century – and made it seem to be very easy. 

Cricket is for The Ashes. The 2022 Australian Open is Ash’s. 

Australians will never forget where they were when this moment happened. 

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Matt Zemek

Matt has written professionally about US College Football since 2000, and has blogged about professional Tennis since 2014. He wants the Australian Open to play Thursday night Women's Semi-Finals, and Friday evening Men's Semi-Finals. Contribute to his Patreon for exclusive content here.

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