Ashleigh Barty secured her 2021 Wimbledon victory over Karolina Pliskova after being brought level at one set all, but Mats Wilander believes a year away may have been key to her win.
Barty cruised to a 6-3 first set lead, but lost the second on a tie break 6-7 which was a surprise given the quality of the opening 14 points, which she won each of. She was ultimately able to win the third set 6-3 to secure her second Grand Slam after her 2019 French Open.
Having spent a year away as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Barty has retained her number one world ranking, and Eurosport analyst Wilander praised her analytical approach on the court and her presence off it, particularly how she communicates with the media.
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“She wins this match because she loves the game, she loves to problem solve, and she just refused to lose in the end,” he began.
“She’s such a class act, she’s been the same every time she’s been interviewed on the media balcony, she’s a class act. She always has something to say.
Her greatness on a tennis court is that she stays in the present and solves problems.
Barty also has a semi-final appearance in last year’s Australian Open, but her burgeoning career was curtailed by the heavy restrictions put in place by the Australian government on international travel in response to the threat from Covid-19. There were exemptions given by the tennis authorities to ensure that players were not excessively punished if they were unable or unwilling to take part in the coronavirus-blighted schedule throughout 2020.
Wilander suggested that after her recent success and the pressure that comes with it, she may have got some benefit from time away from the tour, which even at the best of times is a tough schedule for athletes. Many tennis players, and other top sports stars, have spoken out against the restrictions they have faced in various countries, and have also suggested that the pressure of the pandemic has made their jobs harder over the course of the past 18 months.
“We know that she took that time off, and she's fond of being at home,” he said.
She’s very close to her family. Maybe that’s what she needed - to recharge her batteries. She stayed number one through the whole thing, so then she comes back and there’s some pressure on her.
The pundit also claimed that Barty’s win might serve to invigorate the sport back in her home country. Australian tennis now trails many of the other traditionally successful countries who have contributed Grand Slam winners to both the men’s and women’s game.
“It means everything to Ash Barty and everything to Australian tennis,” he started when considering the impact of Barty’s second Grand Slam success, and her first since her return to competitive action..
Maybe it will kick start it
“I think Barty is such an inspiration, obviously for Australian tennis and the Indigenous community.
“I think being world number one and being away from home, she dealt with it and became the champion despite all these outside circumstances.”
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