Home favourite Ashleigh Barty ends 44-year wait for Australian Open title

World No1 becomes first Aussie champion since Chris O’Neil in 1978

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Ashleigh Barty became the first Australian to win her home Grand Slam in 44 years on Saturday after overpowering American Danielle Collins in straight sets.

The world No 1 faltered in the second set but came back strongly to win on a tiebreak and power past the 27th seed 6-3, 7-6 and lift the Australian Open crown.

Barty won the first set with one service break but was down 5-1 in the second set after dropping serve in the second and sixth games. Collins had two chances to serve for the set but was broken both times.

The home favourite then dominated after taking the set to a tiebreaker, racing to a 4-0 lead.

Barty became the first Australian woman into the singles final of the Australian Open since Wendy Turnbull in 1980 and is now the first Australian champion since Chris O’Neil in 1978.

The 25-year-old Barty now has major titles on three surfaces, adding the hard court at Melbourne Park to her win on grass at Wimbledon last year and on clay at the French Open in 2019.

Barty now just needs the US Open to complete a career Grand Slam.

Fittingly, Barty received the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup from her mentor, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, who won the title four times in the 1970s

Taking the microphone, Barty said: "First and foremost I have to say congratulations to Danielle and your team. I know you'll be fighting for many more of these in the future.

"As an Aussie, the most important part of the tournament is being able to share it with so many people. This crowd is one of the most fun I've ever played in front of.

"You brought so much joy, you relaxed me and forced me to play my best tennis. This is just a dream come true for me and I am so proud to be an Aussie."

Collins paid tribute to Barty, saying: "First I think I owe a big congratulations to Ash on a phenomenal two weeks and a phenomenal couple of years.

"I really admire you as the player you are and the variety in your game, hopefully I can implement some of that in mine."

Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios, right, of Australia after winning the Australian Open men's doubles final. EPA

Organisers were permitted to increase ticket sales to 80 per cent of capacity and it was a terrific roar that greeted the arrival of Barty on court.

It was nonetheless a commendable effort from Collins, who has enjoyed a new lease of life after surgery last year for endometriosis left her pain free.

"Big congratulations to Ash on a formidable tournament, a formidable few years really," said Collins, who is projected to break into the top 10 for the first time when the new rankings come out on Monday.

"The way you play and the variety of shots, hopefully I can implement some of that into my game."

More Aussie success

Australia stars Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis won the Australian Open men's doubles title on Saturday, beating compatriots Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell.

The pair, especially Kyrgios, had come in for plenty of criticism for their antics during their run to the final.

They had been involved in altercations with opponents, had whipped up their home fans into a frenzy, argued with umpires and smashed racquets.

But the dynamic duo, who have been friends since they were nine years old, were too strong in a clash of unseeded pairs, winning 7-6, 6-4.

"Nick I love you brother, I can honestly say we didn't expect to come close to this," said Kokkinakis at the trophy presentation.

"It's been a dream come true," replied Kyrgios. "I wouldn't want to do it with anyone else than you."

Updated: January 29, 2022, 1:39 PM
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