We have found the champion Australian tennis needed and a sporting figure that we should all admire in Ashleigh Barty.
It had been eight years since an Australian last won a grand slam singles title, when Sam Stosur shocked Serena Williams at the US Open in 2011.
It had also been almost 50 years since an Australian had won a grand slam singles title at the French Open, when Evonne Goolagong Cawley held the trophy at Roland Garros in 1971.
Ash Barty’s straight sets 6-1, 6-3, victory over Czech sensation Marketa Vondroušováin in the French Open final means she is Australia’s newest grand slam champion – but it’s Barty’s journey to world number two and Roland Garros conqueror that really is something special.
A star junior from Ipswich in Queensland, Barty was a Wimbledon junior champion at the age of fifteen, and seemingly had the tennis world at her feet, but it was 2014 at the age of eighteen that saw her leave the sport indefinitely after the US Open, as she struggled to deal with the pressure of tennis life; there was no guarantee that she would ever return.
The next phase in Barty’s life saw her find cricket, where she again showcased her prodigious sporting talent, finding herself competing in the Women’s Big Bash League for the Brisbane Heat in 2015.
A world away from the stages of Wimbledon or the French Open, it was this part of Barty’s life that was instead setting her up for the glory that she had always been destined for; a mental break of almost two years that allowed her to live a much more normal life at home and a well-needed hiatus from the rigours of the WTA tour.
Barty re-entered the sport in 2016 just shy of the age of twenty, with a ranking of 623 in the world, and it was only just over a year later in 2017 that she found herself inside the world’s top 50 and had won her first WTA title in Kuala Lumpur.
January saw Barty make an impressive run to the quarterfinals of her home grand slam at the Australian Open before falling to eventual finalist Petra Kvitová.
Since then she has risen to find herself in the top ten in the world, and has five WTA titles to her name including her most recent French Open triumph.
Needless to say she is Australia’s number one ranked tennis player, entering Roland Garros as world number eight and leaving as world number two – with Wimbledon just around the corner beginning next month.
Barty, 23, has had a journey that has seen her translate from young star, into the tennis wilderness, and back out again as a grand slam champion, and it’s her humble attitude that makes it so easy for Australian’s to embrace her.
She fights hard, and carries herself with class on the court, with the ability to reset when things aren’t quite going her way, and her best tennis is very clearly ahead of her.
Australian tennis has been starved of a hero in recent years, and Ash Barty has become one that Aussies can love and support for years to come.
Who knows, she might win Wimbledon too.