An imperious Ashleigh Barty said it was a dream come true after on Saturday becoming the first Australian to win her home Grand Slam in 44 years, but the memories made along the way were more important than the trophy.
The world number one was 5-1 down in the second set against fearless American Danielle Collins but came storming back to win on a tiebreak and sweep past the 27th seed 6-3, 7-6 (7/2) and be crowned Australian Open champion.
“It’s a dream come true for me and I’m just so proud to be an Aussie,” said Barty.
“But for me it’s about the memories more than the trophies, it’s the memories we make from the whole journey,” she added.
Barty achieved the feat with Christine O’Neil, the last Australian man or woman to win an Australian Open singles, watching in the stadium.
There were fears Barty might be overwhelmed by the weight of expectation, but the Australian has dealt with intense pressure before, none more so than at Wimbledon last year.
Winning at the All England Club was the one trophy she wanted more than any others, and she handled the occasion with aplomb.
“Big congratulations to Ash on a formidable tournament, a formidable few years really,” said an emotional Collins, who is projected to break into the top 10 for the first time when the new rankings come out on Monday.
Barty countered the 28-year-old’s power-hitting and big serves with her dizzying array of slices, pinpoint serving, speed and a seamless forehand, but she had a major fright.
She worked the first deuce with Barty serving at 2-2 and a wayward forehand handed her the opening break point of the night. The Australian held firm and served out with an ace.
Barty stepped up a gear and put pressure on the Collins serve to earn her first break point with a net volley, and the American double faulted under pressure to go 4-2 behind.
But Collins wasn’t done and came storming back, breaking Barty for 2-0 in the second set — only the second break of serve against the Australian in the tournament.
Barty was in deep trouble but incredibly found a way back, breaking for 2-5 with some crisp winners then breaking again for 4-5 as Collins floundered serving for the set for a second time.
“I think I just tried to get a lot more aggressive,” she said on facing a 5-1 deficit and the possibility of being taken to a third set for the first time in the tournament.