Almanac Tennis: Why Barty matters so much

 

 

 

 

AUSTRALIA has responded to Ash Barty’s inspirational Wimbledon win with the sort of unanimously joyful acclaim not seen since Cathy Freeman’s immortal Olympic triumph 21 years ago.

 

From the moment she sealed the 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 victory over Czech Karolina Pliskova at 1.04 on Sunday morning back in this neck of the woods – with seemingly everyone in the country tuned in, kids long past their bed-time no exception – the applause has been not only unrelenting but totally without any suggestion of ho-hum, let alone negativity or carping about this or that.

 

Such total positivity is very rare in sport or any other walk of life, and while Freeman’s unforgettable lap of the Sydney stadium is unlikely to ever be usurped as the most emotional Australian sporting moment of this century, and possibly the last one too, Barty is now the only rival to it.

 

There may have been even more authentic feel-good elements to it, and perhaps a stronger sense of inevitability — given it’s symmetry with her idol Evonne Cawley’s first realisation of the identical childhood dream 50 years earlier, it was written in the stars.

 

Barty, Freeman and Cawley, of course, are sisters in a sense – all female, all indigenous, all intelligent, articulate, modest, humble and proud role models for successive generations of not just people with whom they share an ancient heritage but Australians of every ilk.

 

Barty’s mantra – expressed again to the world’s media after her triumph – is that being a good human being is far more important than being a good tennis player, and it has been widely and correctly hailed as a lesson in life for all and sundry. In other words, she now transcends sport.

 

So a new stratosphere has engulfed the Barty Party, a term coined when she dominated women’s tennis for most of 2019, capturing the No 1 ranking and winning her first major tournament, the French Open, as well as the year-end championship play-offs and a couple of other big events as well.

 

That story was encapsulated in forensic detail in the book BARTY: POWER AND GLORY, which is still available but crying out for an update, which is now in the works, although with the Olympic Games and the US Open on her agenda in the immediate future it has become no easy assignment keeping pace with her towering achievements and challenges.

 

At least there is no longer any disputing her right to be regarded as the world’s best player. Because the covid crisis prevented her from leaving Australia throughout last year, and with Japanese star Naomi Osaka rising quickly, some arch questions were asked about the validity of Barty’s ranking.

 

But with Osaka temporarily and controversially withdrawing from the circuit – she skipped Wimbledon after playing only one match at the French — and with the formidable Serena Williams on her last legs and no other obvious dominant power emerging, Barty is queen of all she surveys, no argument about it.

 

There was such a lot to like about her denouement on the manicured lawns of London SW19, the repository of more tennis history than any other place on the planet.

 

It was a more daunting challenge than anyone knew – including herself.

 

That’s because when she was forced to withdraw early in the defence of her French crown with a hip injury that had been troubling her for some time, her support team decided not to tell her how bad it was, believing she wouldn’t recover in time for Wimbledon.

 

Not knowing that, or perhaps just not wanting to know, Barty got herself there anyway.

 

Just making it into the final was a highlight in itself given the quality of the semi-final against Germany’s accomplished Angelique Kerber, a former Wimbledon champion, which Barty won in two entertaining, competitive sets.

 

She began the final by nervelessly claiming the first 14 points from a stunned Pliskova, who looked so shaken that by early in the second set the result looked inevitable. It wasn’t. Barty wavered, Pliskova rallied, and sport’s eternal truth came into play – namely, it ain’t over until its over.

 

But while Pliskova took the second stanza in a impressive tie-break, it would still have been a major shock if Barty had not prevailed in the end, which she duly did with both combatants earning applause for the manner in which they had gone about it, no grunting, no tantrums, no arguments with linesmen or the umpire, just a pure exhibition of tennis the way it is meant to be played.

 

At home, people still didn’t go to bed when the last point was played, preferring to share the euphoria with her as best they could from the other side of the world. It was that sort of occasion, a national celebration, conducted with all the class and maturity for which she has become so well-known and admired.

 

When Pat Cash famously clambered into the grandstand to embrace his coach after defeating Ivan Lendl in 1987 – a celebration the staid old tennis and croquet club had never seen before — he was dubbed the Wild Colonial Boy by the British media, not disapprovingly but as a happy nod to his Australianess.

 

When Barty did the same thing, albeit a tad more elegantly, she wasn’t called any such names but it was recognised as just one more confirmation that there is nobody who represents Australia more authentically than she does.

 

The cameras showed her being feted by real royalty, the future king and queen of England, and tennis royalty, Martina Navratilova and Billie-Jean King, and it wasn’t until she moved on to her coach, boyfriend and other team members that the tears couldn’t be held back any longer.

 

They are all images that will resonate just as powerfully as the exquisite groundstrokes and pulsating serves that had got her there.

 

Like Cawley, who was 19 and went on to win seven Grand Slam tournaments including a second Wimbledon, you sense that the Barty story is a very long way from over. She is only 25, which is peak territory for a modern tennis player, and so the sky is the limit.

 

Cawley also was named Australian of the Year after her Wimbledon breakthrough. It’s still only halfway through this year, but it is going to take something pretty special to prevent Barty emulating her one more time.

 

 

 

 

More from Ron Reed can be read HERE

 

 

The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in the coming weeks. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order right now HERE

 

 

To return to the www.footyalmanac.com.au  home page click HERE

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

Do you enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.

 

Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE
One-off financial contribution – CLICK HERE
Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. A great synopsis, Ron.
    It is a long time since Australia has universally adored a sportsperson as we have Ash Barty.

  2. Tennis Analyst says

    Yes it was a great read from Ron. I’m sure you’ve heard that enough over the years.

    I agree with Smokie. Possibly as far back as Pat Rafter in the men’s tennis and obviously Evonne Goolagong Cawley in the women’s tennis. In cricket, you probably need to go as far back as Dennis Lillee and in women’s soccer, currently the incredible and adored Sam Kerr.

    Although Naomi Osaka is currently dealing with mental health problems, I expect her to come back firing for the US Open and the Australian Open, should the latter event hopefully goes ahead in January 2022.

    I also haven’t written off Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 US Open Champion, as another future rival for Ash Barty. Although she has been hampered with injury problems since winning the US Open, she is a great tennis player and has an all round game to match Barty. Unfortunately for her, it reminds me of Juan Martin Del Potro, who like Andreescu, (who beat Serena Williams at age 19 in the US Open Final) beat Roger Federer in the 2009 US Open Final aged 20, and looked like being a world beater. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been the same player since because of wrist and knee injuries, and is currently ranked no. 744 in the world, aged 32.

    Maybe not for Barty’s sake, but for the sake of tennis, I would like to see Andreescu back playing at her best. I am one person who is not always parochial for Australian tennis only, although I am a born and bred Australian. Yes, it would be great to see another Australian male or female player win the Australian Open again, but I’m not holding my breath, due to the ever growing expectations from the media and the public, especially after Ash Barty’s Wimbledon win. It doesn’t matter how good or who that Australian player is, it’s the toughest Grand Slam tournament nowadays for an Australian to win. Being one of the favourites doesn’t help either. It helped Mark Edmondson and Chris O’Neill not being the favourites to win the last Australian Open winners for the men and women.

    Just ask Pat Cash, Pat Rafter, Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Stosur how hard it is to win the Australian Open, being one of the favourites as an Australian tennis player.

    Anyway, congratulations to Ash Barty, the 2020 Wimbledon champion.

  3. Tennis Analyst says

    Sorry, I meant to type Ash Barty, Ash Barty, the 2021 Wimbledon champion, not the 2020 Wimbledon champion.

    Of course, there was no Wimbledon champion in 2020, for the ladies and gentlemen, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

  4. Another thing we love about Ash Barty is that, at least as far as I know, she hasn’t claimed residence in some foreign tax haven. We should be ashamed of having awarded Pat Rafter Australian of the Year honours in 2020 when, for tax purposes, he was actually a resident of Bermuda. And if we needed another reason to feel ambivalent about Nick Kyrgios, his taking up residence in the Bahamas tax haven is a bloody good one.

  5. Tennis Analyst says

    I forgot to mention John Newcombe, as being an adored tennis player for Australia, even if it was around 45 to 50 years ago. Bewdy Newk. Cathy Freeman was possibly adored 21 years ago in the Olympic 400 metre final in Sydney.

    In my era, people admired the Chappell brothers growing up and wanted to bat like them, just like Shane Warne was admired at his peak, with youngsters wanting to bowl leg spin.

    I’m sure the great Sir Donald Bradman, if he wasn’t adored, was admired by crowds who watched him play.

    My late father told me one of his greatest sporting moments was watching Don Bradman bat in a Sheffield Shield match between New South Wales and Victoria.

    I hope young Australians will take up tennis and want to be the next Ash Barty after her Wimbledon triumph. Hopefully, enough did when she won the French Open in 2019 but more will now.

    Depending on which state they live, they will first need the Lockdown to finish before they start to play and have tennis lessons.

  6. Good on you Malcolm; you beat me to it. I was going to mention this about Pat Rafter.

    Ash Barty is such a great person to look up to as a champion.

    Evonne claimed 7 grand slam titles; let’s hope Ash can keep on winning them.

    Glen!

  7. Pat Rafter was an absolutely charming man. He had manners. Go Pat!

  8. Kevin Densley says

    Enjoyable read, Ron.

    Yes, Barty is certainly one of the most likeable and humble of all top-class sportspeople of the present day.

  9. The Emerald Hill Chronicle says

    Captured the national sentiment beautifully Ron. An uplifting read. Thank you.

  10. Andrew Gaylard says

    An early profile of Ash Barty gave her hobbies as reading and fishing. I thought at the time, for a 16-y-o girl that’s my kind of sporting hero.

  11. Daryl Schramm says

    Terrific article Ron. For me a revival of an event, a realised dream and the happiness it all bought.

  12. Observer says

    Sorry Smokie and other Barty fans, but my favourite sportspeople of the present day and have been for some time are the Australian Olympians Ariarne Titmus, Emma McKeon and Jessica Fox. In case, you haven’t noticed, they are all champions, great role models, humble, cool and easy on the eye. I for one have universally adored these three sportspeople, regardless of whether they get the exposure of Ash Barty. At least at the current Tokyo Olympics, these 3 young ladies are getting their due recognition for their outstanding performances and what they are still capable of achieving.

Leave a Comment

*