Sports

Wimbledon 2021: Ashleigh Barty beats Karolina Pliskova to win title

Venue: All England Club Dates: 28 June-11 July
Coverage: Live across BBC TV, radio and online with extensive coverage on BBC iPlayer, Red Button, Connected TVs and mobile app. Full details here

Ashleigh Barty won her maiden Wimbledon title as she beat Karolina Pliskova in a nervy final to become the first Australian women’s champion for 41 years.

Barty won the first 14 points to take early charge in a 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 win on the 50th anniversary of idol Evonne Goolagong Cawley’s maiden win here.

“This is incredible,” said Barty, who dropped to her knees in tears.

“It took me a long time to verbalise, to dare to dream it and say it.”

After climbing up into the stands to hug her team, she told the Centre Court crowd: “I didn’t sleep a lot last night. I was thinking of all the what-ifs. I hope I made Evonne proud.

“I have to thank every single person in this stadium. You’ve made my dream so special.”

By winning Wimbledon, Ashleigh Barty has fulfilled her childhood dream

Both women were making their debut in the final of the grass-court Grand Slam – the first time since 1977 that had happened – and that may go some way to explaining the rollercoaster nature of the match, which felt at times more like a battle of the minds.

After Barty’s flying start, Czech Pliskova settled in the second set, rediscovering her big serve before errors crept back in the third.

Barty had the chance to serve out victory in the 12th game of the second set but she was broken as Pliskova forced a tie-break, which the Czech won when the Australian double-faulted.

Barty took an early break in the third, which proved decisive as she added the Wimbledon trophy to the French Open title she won in 2019.

Barty emulates Goolagong Cawley on 50th anniversary

Barty has been sporting a scallop-hem dress in tribute to Goolagong Cawley, her idol, friend and mentor.

There have long been comparisons between the two, with Barty playing a similar all-court game, as well as sharing a similar modest and popular personality and indigenous Australian heritage.

They now also have their names on the Venus Rosewater Dish.

Barty, who won the junior Wimbledon title in 2011, has become the fourth woman in the Open era to go on to also lift the women’s title after Britain’s Ann Jones, Swiss Martina Hingis and France’s Amelie Mauresmo.

She made a fast start to go 4-0 up as Pliskova seemed constrained by the weight of the occasion but the Czech finally got on the scoreboard with a break to love.

But it was too late as Barty wrapped up the set in just 28 minutes.

More nerves from the Czech in the shape of back-to-back double faults handed Barty a break for 2-1 at the start of the second set but Pliskova fought back to level the set.

Barty came from 40-0 down to break for 6-5 but nerves then seemed to creep into her own game as she failed to serve out the victory and instead found herself in a tie-break.

Pliskova took the match to a third set but then double-faulted and netted a volley to give Barty a key break before the Australian held her nerve this time to serve out the win.

Pliskova’s wait for Grand Slam win continues

A big server, Pliskova’s game is well suited to grass and she has enjoyed success on the surface with two Eastbourne titles.

The former world number one’s progress to the final had been somewhat under the radar because of poor run in the build-up coupled with a reputation as a serial underperformer on the biggest stages.

Her only previous Grand Slam final was the 2016 US Open, and since then she had reached only two more major semi-finals before this year’s Wimbledon.

While reaching the final was marked progress on that score, her tightness at times was not.

Coming into the match she had hit a tournament-leading 54 aces but in the first set here she managed none at all.

She fired five aces in the second as that part of her game began to improve but her nerves were still visible at the changeovers when she repeatedly jigged her legs up and down.

Her emotions spilled over during her on-court interview as her voice broke, saying: “I never cry, never, and now…

“I want to say Ash played an incredible tournament. I fought to make it difficult for her but she played very well so congrats to her and her team.

“I want to thank all my team. All the success goes to them, without them I would not be here, and my family of course. No matter which trophy I have we have had an incredible three weeks here.”

‘The stuff of dreams’ – reaction

Pat Cash, former Wimbledon champion on BBC Radio 5 Live: “What a special moment. This is the moment that makes it all worthwhile, it really is.”

Tracy Austin, two-time Grand Slam champion on BBC TV: “To win on the 50th anniversary of her idol, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, who she admires so much. This is so special to share this moment with her team.

“She put it out there just a few months ago that she wanted to win Wimbledon.”

Annabel Croft, former British number one on BBC Radio 5 Live: “She was a little undercooked and it did take her those early rounds to get her game going again, but my goodness at the end it was sensational.

“When you’ve watched someone go through so much in their tennis life, then needed to get away from it [Barty took a break from tennis in 2014 before playing cricket for 18 months], and then to come back and win Wimbledon – it is the stuff of dreams, almost the stuff of movies.”

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