LET THE Barty party begin – as Australia welcomed a first tennis singles champion in 44 years.
Ash Barty started the mother of all parties Down Under as she beat Danielle Collins 6-3 7-6 to win the Australian Open women’s crown.
The world No.1 – a talented sportswoman also in cricket and golf – emulated the achievements of Chris O’Neil, the last home winner of this event back in 1978.
In a lovely moment, it was announced in the post-match trophy presentation that Evonne Goolagong Cawley, 70, who has aboriginal roots like Barty, would hand out the silverware.
Barty, a former Big Bash cricketer, arrived on court with the same outstanding form that had seen her drop just 21 games across six previous matches at Melbourne Park.
This century only Serena Williams and Venus Williams had made a run to a Slam final by conceding fewer games.
The 25-year-old was halfway to sporting heaven when she sealed the first set on 32 minutes with a 102mph ace.
The audience that included Hollywood actor Russell Crowe were on their feet and seemingly ready to celebrate the coronation of a new champion.
History was in Barty’s favour, too – in 56 previous matches since 2020, the Queenslander had only lost ONCE when she had claimed the opening set.
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But the tension and nerves started to show in Barty’s arm and motion as her game began to disintegrate.
Collins – who refused to sit on her bench at changeovers – showed she was no in mood to wait around and refused to be overawed by the prospect of playing the role of party pooper.
Collins, 28, broke Barty twice in the second set – just the second and third times it had happened to Barty in the entire fortnight – and at 5-1 up, the Florida star was ready to take this the distance.
There were times when the crowd overstepped the mark and the American complained to the umpire in the ninth game about individuals yelling during the rallies and in particular between the first and second serves.
But Barty won five of the next games to force a tie-breaker and she clinched the famous triumph with a brilliant forehand winner.
The roar of delight unleashed all the emotions and relief she had contained over the past years of trying to end this hoodoo.