Ashleigh Barty’s victory at Roland Garros has made waves all over the world.
Having briefly fallen out of love with tennis, her triumphant return to the game and surge to a maiden Grand Slam title is the stuff of fairy tales.
Back home, meanwhile, Australia has embraced her as a true hero.
Writing for the Sydney Morning Herald, Greg Baum hailed the 23-year-old: “Ash Barty embodies so much of the way we like to think about ourselves. There's her face, so open, so guileless. There's her attitude, so unassuming. She's athletic, but squat, which covers off on a few of us (the squat, that is). She doesn't dress or make up to impress. She wears a bloody baseball cap!
“Ordinary should not be confused with unexceptional. She's one of us, but she's not. She's one of what we'd like to be. She's actually a bit of a genius.”
Ian McCullough of the Canberra Times highlighted the magnitude of her achievements: “Barty's win puts her in exalted company as she became only the 17th Australian woman to win a major - and first since Samantha Stosur at the US Open triumph in 2011.
“The Queenslander is also the first Australian singles champion in Paris since Court clinched the last of her five titles 46 years ago.”
Her engaging personality has caught the imagination of the world.
“Ashleigh Barty smashed away the decisive winner, placed both hands on her head, and uttered a four-letter word. It was a good thing the match was over, or she might have received a code violation for audible obscenity,” Simon Briggs of the Telegraph wrote.
“The moment was classic Barty, for she is an unvarnished and entirely relatable champion – one of the most down-to-earth people in this often highfalutin sport.”
While Barty’s extraordinary personal narrative has been heralded, the quality of her tennis, naturally, has not gone unnoticed.
Briggs continued: “Her game has more dimensions than Dr Who’s Tardis, complementing a biting serve – which inflicts a surprising amount of damage for a woman who stands just 5ft 5in – with a deadly volley and the option to slice the ball in defence on both sides.”
— Cathy Freeman (@CathyFreeman) June 8, 2019
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) June 8, 2019
Liz Clarke of the Washington Post was similarly impressed by the adaptability of the future WTA World No.2’s game as she hailed the “delightfully varies strokes that were fresh and forward-looking while owing a debt to the Australian greats who had inspired her, seven-time Grand Slam champion Evonne Goolagong Cawley and Rod Laver”.
Clarke was impressed by the “new wave of women’s tennis players” but praised the mentality of Barty.
“[She] wasn’t the hardest hitting or, at 5-foot-5, the most physically imposing. But she stood tallest in the end,” she said.
According to Le Parisien's Yves Leroy, she left “no room for suspense” with her rapid victory, which owed to her focus.
Similarly, the New York Times’ Christopher Clarey felt that the French Open was ultimately won in Barty’s head.
“The key for Barty over these two unexpectedly successful weeks at Roland Garros has been her new, hard-won ability to remain focused on the present: to ignore the doubts swirling in her head, concentrate on the task and shot at hand, and let her remarkable talent flow from the baseline to the net,” he commented.
And so to the future: can Barty build on this first success to become a serial winner?
Steve Flink of Tennis.com certainly believes that could be the case.
“She is far too gifted and driven to settle for just one major title,” he argued. “She has at least seven to 10 more years of top flight tennis ahead of her. Her game has so many layers and her versatility is so extraordinary that there is no reason she can’t win at least two to three more Grand Slam tournaments before she walks away from the game of tennis. Perhaps she will win more than that.”