As world No.1 and Australia’s pride and joy, the pressure on Ash Barty to perform is immense. Add to that the new rhetoric spun by the media just in time for her Wimbledon semi-final, which saw Barty suddenly bear the burden of trying to win Wimbledon fifty years after Evonne Goolagong’s triumph, and it seems that any other player would crumble. Instead, Barty proved just why she’s the dominant force in women’s tennis.
In a semi-final that saw her go up against Angelique Kerber, Barty showcased an athletic prowess that was at its peak. Many are already calling it the highest-quality big-match performance of her career, and when you consider the facts, it’s not hard to see why. Despite Kerber being a seasoned player known for going deep in grand slam events, Barty came out all guns blazing. She hit 38 winners and had just 16 unforced errors, losing her serve just once.
As Tumaini Carayol wrote in The Guardian, “No player had more than 62 per cent of first-serve points against the 2018 Wimbledon champion all week, including Coco Gauff who rained down countless 120mph bombs on Centre Court. Behind some gargantuan serving, Barty finished with 88 per cent first-serve points won, losing five of 41 points on it.”
While Barty seemed to storm away with the first set, Kerber took an early break in the second that had some viewers questioning if Barty would be able to close out the match. With both players having occupied the top spot in the tennis rankings and won a grand slam, their experience was levelled and it showed in the quality of the match performances. But despite Kerber bringing her A-game to the court, Barty proved too tough an opponent. “Angelique brought the best out of me and now I have a chance on Saturday to live out a childhood dream,” said the tennis star in a post-match press conference.
In moving through to the final, Barty is desperate to clinch victory in what will be her first Wimbledon final as she becomes the first Aussie woman to reach the final in 41 years. There, the 25-year-old will meet former world number one Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic. Speaking about what it means to her to play on such a renowned stage, Barty explained: “I think it’s just about going out there and remembering how you felt as a kid, that there was the enjoyment, there was the freedom just to go out there and kind of try and do what you can.”
Not since Evonne Goolagong Cawley won her second Wimbledon title in 1980 has an Australian woman reached the Wimbledon final, an honour that’s not lost on Barty. “It’s a really special anniversary for Evonne. I couldn’t be more proud to be in a position to wear an outfit inspired by her. Now to kind of give myself a chance to create some history almost in a way that’s a tribute to her is really exciting,” said Barty.
“I couldn’t be more rapt to have that opportunity on Saturday.”