The Insider Wrap is a recap of everything you need to know from the week that was. This week, WTA Insider looks back at the triumphant return of The Championships, where World No.1 Ashleigh Barty capped off an emotional and inspiring fortnight at the All England Club.
Performance of the Tournament: Ashleigh Barty
The best sports stories write themselves. Barty was just 15 when she walked through the gates of the All England Club for the first time and proceeded to walk away with the girl's title. The victory, sweet in the moment, would invite the spotlight and scrutiny that would eventually chase the humble and introverted Aussie out of the game for two years.
Despite her dalliance with professional cricket, Barty's love of the sport drew her back to the sport in 2016. It took her just five years to make her dream of winning Wimbledon come true. The 25-year-old's Wimbledon triumph closed the loop on a fascinating 10-year journey, which saw her transform from a teenager who shunned the pressure, to one who openly embraced it.
Barty invited more eyes on her progress when she chose to wear a kit inspired by and in celebration of her friend and mentor Evonne Goolagong Cawley's 50th anniversary of the Aussie legend's first Wimbledon win in 1971. And you knew something was different on the Saturday before the tournament when Barty confidently laid her dreams bare for all to hear and dissect.
"One day I would love to be the champion here," Barty said. "It's a dream. It's a goal. Dreams don't always come true, but you can fight and do everything you can to give yourself that opportunity. That's been a lot of my learnings over the last two years as a person, not just as a professional tennis player, but as a person, is putting my hopes and dreams out into the universe and chasing them.
"You can dare to dream, you can try and dream big. There's certainly nothing wrong with that."
Surprise of the Tournament: Viktorija Golubic
There's just something about Swiss one-handed backhanders and Wimbledon. The 28-year-old was already in the midst of a career-best season, where she made the finals in Lyon and Guadalajara in February and won the WTA 125K in Saint-Malo on clay. But to translate that quality to a Slam was a big step. Golubic had never won back-to-back matches at a Slam before Wimbledon, where she beat Veronika Kudermetova, Danielle Collins, Madison Brengle and Madison Keys to make her first Slam quarterfinal.
Golubic began the season playing ITF events, ranked outside the Top 130. She leaped inside the Top 50 on Monday to a career-high No.48.
Not even Pliskova thought she would be firing down aces on championship weekend. The Czech was on a three-match losing streak going into her least successful major. She left with her first Slam final appearance in four years; she has now made the semifinals of all four Slams.
Pliskova's famous poker face often betrays her resilience and competitive fire, but that spirit was on display in the final against Barty. The sport's statisticians were scrambling after the first 14 points of the match to look up "shortest Grand Slam final," but Pliskova refused to feel sorry for herself. She battled back to force a third set and kept the pressure on Barty throughout the late stages - the World No.1 had to fend off a break point in the final game - and there was no question at the end that Pliskova left it all on the court.
Elise Mertens and Hsieh Su-Wei
In every way, this is a superstar doubles team. The two found each other Elise Mertens' successful partnership with Aryna Sabalenka ended, with the latter wanting to focus on singles and Hsieh going solo after Barbora Strycova's retirement. On paper, the pairing made sense, but after enduring a number of tough, tight losses - they had seven match points and lost to Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Iga Swiatek in Paris - Mertens and Hsieh were still waiting to click.
It finally did at Wimbledon. This time it was Mertens and Hsieh who saved match points. It happened in the final against Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Vesnina. The 3-6, 7-5, 9-7 win was their first title as a team. It was Hsieh's third Wimbledon title and an effective title defense. She won with Strycova in 2019. As a nice little bonus, Mertens returned to Doubles No.1 on Monday.
Q. Congratulations. How do you describe what just happened with the last two-and-a-half hours and how you managed to pull through it?— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) July 10, 2021
SU-WEI HSIEH: It was only two-and-a-half hours? (Laughter.)#Wimbledon https://t.co/Cm7nKHA0UL
The former No.1 enjoyed an exhilarating 18-day renaissance, blasting her way to her first title since 2018 in Bad Homburg and taking that confidence into Wimbledon, where she made her first major semifinal since that Wimbledon run three years ago. Kerber played with her familiar determination - her second-round match against Sara Sorribes Tormo remains the match of the tournament - but it was the joy in her tennis that stood out.
As Kerber walked to the net after her loss to Barty, she smiled to herself. That's not her typical reaction. In short: Angie Kerber was having fun out there.
Seven years after making her first and only Round of 16 at a Slam, Tomljanovic did one better and made her first major quarterfinal, posting wins over Greet Minnen, Alizé Cornet, Jelena Ostapenko and Emma Raducanu. Her reflections on the journey to this moment and frank discussion of her history of nerves was poignant.
"I'm just proud of the fact that I faced some tough moments in this tournament so far, in the second round, even the first and the third," Tomljanovic said. "I've handled it well mentally. That wasn't the case sometimes in my career. It did play a part in my mind. 'OK, is this going to happen again? Am I going to lose it mentally? Am I going to choke or something?'
"I do remember all the bad matches I've played instead of the good ones. Me always kind of being glass half empty, which I've been working on. To come through and really work on that side of my mentality, it's been big."
Viktorija Golubic, Aryna Sabalenka and Ajla Tomljanovic— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) July 6, 2021
are through to their maiden Slam QFs.
Ashleigh Barty, Ons Jabeur and
Karolina Pliskova will be playing their 1st #Wimbledon
This is the 1st time in the Open Era that the Wimbledon QFs contains 6 first-time W QFists.
The Tunisian capped off her outstanding grass season, where she won her first WTA title in Birmingham, by making her first Wimbledon quarterfinal. And the path wasn't an easy one. Jabeur had to go through a string of major champions in Venus Williams, Garbiñe Muguruza and Iga Swiatek, before being overpowered by Sabalenka.
But what made Jabeur's fortnight notable was the public's reaction to her tennis. It's one thing to win matches and post a big result. It's another to win the hearts and minds of the crowd and build a groundswell of support not just through your story, but with your tennis. Between Barty and Jabeur, Wimbledon got a good dose of swashbuckling variety this year and the Centre Court crowd lapped it up.
Seeded No.2 and coming off a disappointing exit at Roland Garros - once again in the Round of 16 - Sabalenka doubled-down on her power game to great effect at Wimbledon to finally make her first major semifinal (and quarterfinal). It took a near-perfect serving day from Pliskova to upend her in the semifinals, but Sabalenka made huge strides at SW19. And now that she's broken through her quarterfinal barrier, it's hard not to be excited about her prospects on the summer hardcourts (and Tokyo).
The Russian was a revelation on the grass. Her title run as a qualifier in Berlin launched her into the Top 100 for the first time and earned her a wildcard into Wimbledon. She promptly made the second week of a major for the first time in her career. She's now just five spots out of a Top 50 debut.
The American has now won back-to-back mixed doubles titles. The California native and Arizona State University standout paired with Joe Salisbury to win Roland Garros and then found herself on the opposite side of the net from Salisbury as she took home the Wimbledon title with Neal Skupski.
It's not easy to bump England's football team off the front pages during a national competition, but the 18-year-old British teen was right there side-by-side with Harry Kane during her breakout Wimbledon, where she became the youngest British woman in the Open Era to advance to the Round of 16.
Making her Wimbledon debut, the 18-year-old defeated Vitalia Diatchenko, Marketa Vondrousova and Sorana Cirstea without losing a set to advance to the Round of 16. She couldn't finish her match against Ajla Tomljanovic, but Raducanu's smooth backhand left an impression for the future.
The average age of the women in the Round of 16 at #Wimbledon is 24.3 years, the youngest at a Slam since 2014 Wimbledon.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) July 5, 2021
The match underway on Centre Court between Angelique Kerber and Coco Gauff is a battle between the oldest and youngest women left in the draw. pic.twitter.com/FVAWqdp8tH
Iga Swiatek, Coco Gauff and Paula Badosa
All three came to Wimbledon as very different players than they were the last time they played the All England Club, and with that came expectations. Swiatek is now a major champion and has won two titles this season. Gauff has been under the spotlight as a "next big thing" since making her major debut at Wimbledon two years ago. And Badosa came in fresh off an outstanding clay season and first major quarterfinal.
Swiatek and Badosa had yet to win a main-draw match at Wimbledon and proceeded to make the Round of 16. Gauff matched her 2019 showing with a Round of 16 as well.
Swiatek: “Tennis is a bit frustrating. You can have great week, but then lose and forget that you had a nice tournament. I'm trying not to do that. I'm trying to see how much I learned and how I was feeling even before 1R. Like winning just 1 match was a great achievement for me" pic.twitter.com/NmPiO6FDQn— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) July 5, 2021
Barbora Krejcikova and Elena Rybakina
It's hard to believe that both women - Krejcikova is now a major champion and Rybakina has been a threat for the past two seasons - were making their Wimbledon main-draw debuts. Fresh off their Paris breakouts, Krejcikova and Rybakina look like grass-court threats for the future, with each advancing to the Round of 16. Krejcikova lost to Barty, while Sabalenka edged out Rybakina in three tough sets.
Carla Suárez Navarro
Barty dropped just two sets through her title run and one of them came to Suárez Navarro. Playing in her final Wimbledon, the Spaniard got a Centre Court slot against the top seed and played a perfect second set to take the eventual champion to a decider. The two shared a gracious moment at the net and Suárez Navarro, who said goodbye to Roland Garros on a crowdless stadium three weeks before, got the uproarious send-off from the knowledgeable Centre Court crowd.
That was an UNFORGETTABLE experience. You gave me goosebumps today, @Wimbledon. I’ve always felt privileged for compete on your lawns. Many thanks for the best farewell I could imagine. 💚💜👋🏻— Carla Suárez Navarro (@CarlaSuarezNava) June 29, 2021
All the best, @ashbarty. You’re a special one. Thanks for a wonderful match today. 😉 pic.twitter.com/8Bg69THO5u
Pic of the Tournament
12: Number of different semifinalists at the first three Slams of the season.
Australian Open: Naomi Osaka, Jennifer Brady, Serena Williams, Karolina Muchova
Roland Garros: Barbora Krejcikova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Maria Sakkari, Tamara Zidansek
Wimbledon: Ashleigh Barty, Karolina Pliskova, Aryna Sabalenka, Angelique Kerber
335: Ashleigh Barty's ranking when she lost in the second round of qualifying in her first Wimbledon back after her two-year hiatus in 2016.
5 years ago, Ash Barty lost in #Wimbledon qualies, having just started her return to tour.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) July 10, 2021
Since the start of 2017, Barty...
- has won more titles than any player: 12
- is 2nd behind Serena in Winning % (76.2%)
- has the highest % of Finals Reached Per Tournament Played: 28.1% pic.twitter.com/LDk8Chxikf
14: Points won in a row by Ashleigh Barty in the Wimbledon final. This is the longest point-streak in a women's final at Wimbledon since records began in 1977.
12: Games won at love in the Wimbledon singles final, the most in a women's final at Wimbledon since records began in 1977.
125: Miles per hour. That was the fastest serve of the women's tournament, and it came off Coco Gauff's racquet in the Round of 16.
Active Players to Reach the Semifinals at All 4 Slams:— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) July 6, 2021
Karolina Pliskova pic.twitter.com/6fh8YlbHrN
27: Return winners hit by Aryna Sabalenka in the tournament. No other player hit more than 16.
33: Breaks of serve by Ashleigh Barty. The eventual champion broke in 44.6% of her return games.
Quote of the Tournament
"I don't think anyone in life has anything to prove, you know. Each and every person can only breathe for themselves. No one else can breathe for you. No one has anything to prove to anyone in this life. The only thing you have to do is pay your taxes or else you're going to jail." - Venus Williams