Mag By Craig Gabriel
12 MONTHS AGO ASH BARTY WON HER FIRST MAJOR - THE FRENCH OPEN
Events and happenings and milestones are all so fleeting. You want to treasure for ever and ever the glory of those particular minutes as they are occurring and when they have actually unfolded.
You don’t want a split second of euphoria to leave a single muscle or sinew from your body. You want to keep on experiencing the goose bumps on goose bumps as an entire tennis stadium rises with deafening applause.
The realisation that something so special has been achieved and that moment will actually never ever leave a corner of the mind.
Twelve months ago, Ashleigh Barty felt that out of body experience. She had weathered an arduous semi-final at Roland Garros coming back from a set and 0-3 down against Amanda Anisimova to advance.
On finals day the Parisienne spring sun could not decide what it wanted to do but for Miss Barty there was no hesitation as she dismantled Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 6-3 in 70 minutes.
The fans were playing every point with the Australian. The Czech served to stay in the final and had game point but Barty saved it. Nerves were holding Vondrousova after that. At deuce she made a forehand error and it was championship point.
Vondrousova served to the body and Barty went crosscourt which Vondrousova returned feebly, it was high and just cleared the net as Barty came racing in and emphatically smashed away the overhead for a winner and the championship.
Her arms went up in the air and then to her head as her face beamed.
That night, with her team led by her coach Craig Tyzzer, the small group that was so instrumental in this remarkable story, the beers were on tap. This Saturday the same group will celebrate again and toast this most down to earth star with what else but champagne.
“I’m grateful,” Ash said exclusively to wearetennis.com. “Having time to reflect on 2019 has been nice. It all felt like a whirlwind at the time, but I’ve been able to spend some time looking back and appreciating everything that we achieved last year. There were a lot of special moments.”
As she accepted the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen from the seven-time champion Chrissie Evert, Ash almost looked sheepish and at the same time was floating on cloud nine. She honestly does not know when she came off the cloud because “the whole thing felt surreal”. However, reality probably clicked in when she played her first match on grass and then, later that particular week, lightening struck again as she became world No.1.
“There are definitely flashbacks,” she said. “Roland Garros was a time of huge personal growth for me, the semi-final was probably the most important match I’ve played in terms of how much I learnt.
“Winning my first Slam title is something I’ll never forget and I’ve got a lot of happy memories to look back on. My team and I had a great time in Paris.”
It is obviously strange not being in Paris, at Roland Garros in the 16th Arrondissement right now because of the world situation, but if all things fall into place the tennis athletes of the world will gather in late September to play the delayed tournament.
“I’ve been hitting on clay so I must be missing it,” Ash said with a smile. “Obviously, it would have been very special to be there now but come Saturday night I’ll enjoy a glass of something French and cheer this time last year.”
Her journey back into tennis has been well documented and the sport is grateful that she decided to come back. Just like she was inspired by other players such as Sam Stosur who nine years before has reached the final in Paris, Ash inspires other young players and being a proud indigenous Australian she is lifting spirits across cultures.
On that afternoon, Saturday 8th June, she filled hearts with joy. I called the final game live on Australian radio with emotions peaking. A victory such as Ash Barty’s was incredibly special and her journey back to tennis is a heart-warming story.