Ashleigh Barty said it was an achievement in “another realm” to become only the second Australian woman to top the world rankings when she won the Birmingham WTA title on Sunday, beating Julia Goerges 6-3, 7-5.
The 23-year-old French Open champion emulates Evonne Goolagong Cawley — like her an indigenous Australian — who held top spot for a fortnight in 1976.
Barty — the first Australian to win the French Open since Margaret Court in 1973 — displaces Japan’s Naomi Osaka as women’s world number one.
Even more extraordinarily, it comes less than five years since she took time out from tennis to play cricket in 2014.
Nevertheless, she said it had been a childhood dream to be tennis number one, even though this year her and her team had only targeted the top 10.
“I mean you always dream of it as a little kid, but for it to become a reality is incredible, it really is,” said Barty after receiving the trophy in a tournament she had won without dropping a set.
“It’s not something that was really in my realm.
“We started from scratch without a ranking and now to be where we are, not only for me, is a massive, massive achievement for them.”
Barty said it was an honour to follow in Goolagong Cawley’s footsteps.
“To be able to follow in the footsteps of Evonne, even to be mentioned in the same sentence as her, is incredible,” said Barty.
“What she’s done for our sport, for Australians all around the world, not (those) just based in Australia, she’s put us on the map.
“And what she’s done for indigenous Australians is just remarkable.”
Barty showed little sign of an arm injury which saw her pull out of the doubles on Saturday where she was partnering Goerges.
Barty saved two break points early in the first set but she made no mistake when she was offered the opportunity — Goerges putting a backhand wide to give the Australian a 4-2 lead.
Barty closed out the set without further ado — the pick of her shots a delightful lob into the far corner which Goerges tried valiantly to get back but it dropped short of the net to give her a 5-2 lead.
– ‘Be very boring’ –
Goerges, though, struck back in the second set, breaking Barty in her first service game and the German held her own to move into a 3-0 lead.
Barty broke back, however, when Goerges sent a forehand out to get back to 3-2.
Goerges, leading 4-3, took Barty’s next service game to deuce with a superb volley, but the Australian extricated herself from trouble and levelled at 4-4.
Barty had a break point in the next game but Goerges fought back to win the game to go 5-4 up.
Goerges had a set point in the next game but Barty, showing her championship-winning mentality, saved it with an ace and then held serve to make it 5-5.
Barty, by contrast, did take her chance when it came in the following game, breaking Goerges and then wrapped up the title and the top spot with her service game.
Barty said her celebrations would have to be pretty muted.
“Get in the car and get down to Eastbourne (her next tournament),” she said of the Wimbledon warm-up event.
“We’ll just be very boring, to be completely honest, we’ve got a big couple of weeks coming up.
“Make sure we’re ready to go, but we’ll certainly have a beer or two.”
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