Top seed Ashleigh Barty has claimed her second Grand Slam crown, and first at Wimbledon, with a 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-3 defeat of No.8 seed Karolina Pliskova in 1 hour and 55 minutes.
"It was the most incredible feeling I think I've ever experienced on a tennis court," Barty said, in her post-match press conference. "There was certainly disbelief. I think I've worked so hard my whole career with my team and with people that mean the most to me to try and achieve my goals and my dreams. To be able to do that today was incredible."
Barty is the first Australian to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1980, and the first woman to win Wimbledon as No.1 seed since Serena Williams in 2016. The 2011 girls' champion, Barty is also the third player in the Open Era to back up a junior Wimbledon title with the senior one, following Ann Jones, Martina Hingis and Amélie Mauresmo.
The moment @AshBarty’s childhood dreams all came true#Wimbledon pic.twitter.com/gxMxphj4qk— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 10, 2021
Most significantly, Barty's triumph comes on the 50th anniversary of Goolagong Cawley's first Wimbledon title in 1971. Seven-time major champion Goolagong Cawley was the first Indigenous Australian to win a Grand Slam, and a trailblazer for players such as Barty, who was named Tennis Australia's National Indigenous Tennis Ambassador in 2018. This year, Barty has paid sartorial tribute to Goolagong Cawley via her scallop-hemmed dress.
"Australians have such a rich history in sport, and I think being able to be a very small part of that is something I always dreamt of," Barty said. "Try and create a legacy, try and create a path for young girls and boys to believe in their dreams. Being able to kind of live through that and learn my lessons along the way has been some of the best parts of my journey.
"To be able to be successful here at Wimbledon, to achieve my biggest dream, has been absolutely incredible. The stars aligned for me over the past fortnight. Incredible that it happened to fall on the 50th anniversary of Evonne's first title here, too."
Since 2015, all but one Roland Garros champion has won Wimbledon in the next year the tournament has been held. Serena Williams triumphed in Paris in 2015, then in London in 2016. Garbiñe Muguruza and Simona Halep won their first majors at the French Open in 2016 and 2018 respectively, and their second at Wimbledon in 2017 and 2019 - a pattern Barty has followed.
In the first Wimbledon final to go to three sets since 2012, Barty got off to a dream start, winning the first 14 points and four games in a row. She also led 3-1 in the second set and served for victory at 6-5, but was pegged back by a determined Pliskova as the quality of the clash rose throughout the deciding set.
Welcome to the Roll of Honour, @ashbarty 🌟#Wimbledon pic.twitter.com/HJqgd8MKKr— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 10, 2021
The breadth of Barty's repertoire was on show as the match got under way. A series of unreturnable serves was the foundation for a perfectly executed strategy: aggressive forehand winners combined with biting backhand slices which forced Pliskova to bend her knees ever lower, until invariably an error was elicited. Rattled and unable to settle, the Czech did not help her cause by double faulting to go down a double break.
A smattering of Barty forehand errors to drop serve broke the spell in the fifth game. It was too late to change the outcome of the opening set - the World No.1 broke again to lead 5-1, and ultimately served it out at the second go. But from that point on, Barty was embroiled in a battle that was as much mental as tactical or physical.
"I think there were some up-and-downs," Barty said. "I think there were small runs of momentum. I think there were small runs of opportunities on second serves from both of us. I felt like we were both able to take advantage when we saw runs of second serves in a row. I think that was the challenge today, was trying to control my service games as clean as possible. I wasn't able to do that every time, but I felt like I was building in the right way."
Pliskova landed her first ace as the second set got under way, signalling that she had thoroughly shaken off her edginess. But she nearly threw it away, coughing up a pair of double faults and cheap forehand errors to fall behind 1-3.
how it started: how it’s going: pic.twitter.com/CBkVRuxYgS— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 10, 2021
By now, Barty was oscillating between some of her most spell-binding tennis - and some of her most nervy mistakes. A double fault and errant forehands handed the break back - but then, two forehand winners that clipped the outside of the line enabled her to level at 4-4. At 5-5, the first deuce game of the match saw Barty break from 40-0 down courtesy of some remarkable defence.
Serving for the title, Barty's forehand let her down again, and she paid the price as Pliskova surged through the ensuing tiebreak. Two net cords went the 29-year-old's way, but Pliskova was also able to raise her level to come out on top of several thrilling points towards the end of the second set.
"I think trying to serve out the match in the second set, I gave [Pliskova] a look in," Barty said. "She grabbed it with both hands. I think being able to reset at the start of the third was really important, just for me to continue to turn up each and every point. That's all I was really focusing on, just trying to do the best I could every given point regardless of what the scoreline was."
Former World No.1 Pliskova was contesting her second Grand Slam final following the 2016 US Open, which she lost to Angelique Kerber. In that match, she had also come from a set down to force a third set. But the same outcome awaited her five years on.
"I hope I made Evonne proud"— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 10, 2021
We all know the answer to that question, @ashbarty 🇦🇺#Wimbledon pic.twitter.com/mt7BoQ6Kd8
Some of Pliskova's best tennis came as she was battling to keep her trophy hopes alive, with a pair of casually executed high backhand drop-volleys as she served at 2-5 of particular note. But she ultimately paid the price for one loose service game as the third set had begun.
Barty had shaken off the disappointment of failing to close out the second set with remarkable swiftness, getting back on track with her first drop shot of the day for an opening hold. Pliskova, by contrast, seemed to relax too much after winning such a tense passage of play, and a netted forehand volley put her behind an immediate break.
Despite some valiant highlights, Pliskova was unable to make up that ground. Serving for the title a second time, Barty again had to overcome a spot of nerves, netting a drive volley to go down break point. But after saving it, a seventh ace of the day set up her first championship point, and she sealed it as Pliskova netted a backhand.
The title is the 12th of Barty's career, and a tour-leading fourth of 2021 following the Yarra Valley Classic, Miami and Stuttgart. She now owns a 35-6 win-loss record this season and more match victories than any other player.
Pliskova, whose 230-week streak of maintaining a Top 10 ranking ended when she fell to World No.13 the week before Wimbledon, will return to that echelon at World No.7.
Barty called Pliskova "an exceptional competitor. I think a lot of the time I feel like she's underestimated. She is one hell of a competitor. She wants it extremely badly. She fights so hard for every point. She's genuinely invested absolutely 100 percent in every point. You have to bring your best and be engaged for the whole match to compete with her.
"I think over the past fortnight, I've had massive, massive amounts of growth, even the last fortnight I think I've grown as a person. Certainly been able to use my experience as a tennis player to get me through some tough matches this week. I felt like I was able to get better and better with each match and trust myself more and more each and every time I stood out on the court."