Thursday, December 1, 2022

Ash Barty is the favorite of women

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When Chris O’Neil lifted the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup in 1978, she continued a seven-year streak of Australian women winning their Grand Slam at home.

In fact, between 1959 and 1978, only three intruders crossed the ocean to break local domination.

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When Americans Nancey Richey (1967) and Billy Jean King (1968) won the Australian Open, they achieved feats that at the time were incredibly rare and unusual. British star Virginia Wade was the only other player to handle him during this period of Australian domination, winning the trophy in 1972.

Part of that narrative was that tennis had yet to adopt a fully global calendar, open from Australia, prestigious as it is, more often than not a tournament which pitted the best Australians against each other with only the more adventurous stars from other nations making the trip across the ocean in an attempt to spoil the party.

Yet many great foreigners have tried and failed. It was hard enough to come halfway across the world to win a grand slam, doing it against Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong was almost impossible.

Court won the tournament 11 times in 14 years between 1960 and 1973. Then, Goolagong won four of the next five years.

When O’Neil lifted the trophy in 1978, it looked like the local victories would never end. They were the rule rather than the exception, and then, just like that, the tap was off. A flood of trophies instantly dried up, triggering a 43-year drought – and that’s only on the women’s side.

The men’s draw sparked an eerily similar experience, with Australian dominance until 1976 and then nada.

So we come to this time each year with renewed hope that the drought will finally be over.

Often, hope seems lost, but more recently it has resurrected. While the late 90s and early 2000s saw some sort of renaissance in Australian men’s tennis, it failed to deliver the prize the nation craves most. Lleyton hewitt got her chance in 2005 but was turned down by an inspired performance by Russian star Marat Safin. He was pretty much Hewitt’s last at the peak of his powers and none of his fellow males looked like him.

So, for the past decade or so, our hopes have drifted off the women’s side of the draw, first as Sam Stosur approached the top of the sport by conquering the first Serena Williams to win the US Open in 2011. .

For several years after that watershed moment, Stosur would arrive in Australia in the summer and seem overwhelmed by the wait. She has never played her best tennis in Melbourne, with her best result twice in the fourth round, in 2006 and 2010.

The 36-year-old is still fighting hard to improve these results and will return to the pitch at Melbourne Park later today in a first round match against compatriot Destanee Aiava.

But the Australian Hopes Caravan has evolved and it is now parked squarely at Ashleigh Bartyfront door.

It’s a fascinating place, with Barty posing as the archetypal laid-back Australian, who loves beer and soccer and couldn’t give two what everyone thinks of her, but her closer and the most expensive, as long as it is true to itself.

Ash Barty delivers the Yarra Valley Classic winner’s speech

According to one of his good friends and former doubles partner, Casey Dellacqua, there are no hidden surprises when it comes to Barty. She is as she seems – and perhaps that is the key to her quest to end the drought and give her nation what it needs. She will not be paralyzed by hope.

“For Ash, the only expectation she has on herself is from herself and her team,” Dellacqua told Wide World of Sports.

“When she comes out and plays, that’s the only expectation on their mind. I think she’ll do it pretty well.”

Barty, it seems, has found a way to extinguish the fear that holds many talented athletes back; fear of failure.

Dellacqua says it comes down to perspective. Barty may lose matches and withdraw from tournaments, but she has built a life that gives him happiness outside of the tennis court, so that she can quickly overcome her disappointment.

“I think it’s all about perspective, it’s about having a game plan that you want to execute on the same day and unfortunately it’s the nature of the sport that sometimes you lose and sometimes you win,” he said. Dellacqua said.

“As long as you go out on the field as an athlete and you have a game plan and you go out there and do what you have to do; when you leave the field, what can you do?

“Roger Federer, great, they all lose. And they all lose in big moments. So honestly, it’s all about perspective – that’s what I love about sport, that’s my thing, that, at the end of the day I love my sport more than anything. And I love it because sometimes we think that’s all that matters, but at the end of the day it’s really not . “

Could it really be that simple? A nation is watching with hope. After 43, it’s hard to keep perspective.


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