Ash Barty is someone who keeps her cards close to her chest, but the world No.1 has allowed herself to say out loud that her dream is to win Wimbledon “without a doubt.”
Barty and Pliskova hope dream becomes a reality
The world No.1 Ashleigh Barty looks to emulate her idol Evonne Goolagong Cawley in the Wimbledon final against Karolina Pliskova on Saturday.
A decade ago the Australian was hailed junior champion at the All England Club, a well-documented journey followed including a hiatus from the sport and an astonishing return to reach the peak. For Barty, Wimbledon is a cherished place which represents her journey and evolution.
The 25-year-old is now one step away from realising her dream, up against the reinvigorated Karolina Pliskova in Saturday’s final.
“I think Wimbledon for me has been an amazing place of learning. I think 10 years ago I came here for the first time as a junior and learned a lot in that week,” stated the Queenslander.
“Probably 2018 (third round), 2019 (fourth round defeat to Alison Riske as the top seed) were some of my toughest weeks playing. To come away with our losses in those two tournaments, I learned a hell of a lot from those two times.
“I think a lot of the time your greatest growth comes from your darkest times. I think that's why this tournament has been so important to me. I've learned so much with all my experiences, the good, bad, everything in between.
“Just to be able to keep chipping away, keep putting yourself out there, let yourself be vulnerable, just be yourself, knowing that everything that comes with that is an opportunity to learn. I think that's been a massive one for us this fortnight.”
The content path
Barty, fresh from navigating past 2018 champion Angelique Kerber 6-3, 7-6(3) on Thursday, insists she has no regrets, completely content with the path her team has taken to reach this point.
“I wouldn't change a thing. Each and every time I walk back to these courts, I have incredible memories that come flooding back,” added the Australian, who praised her team for her rapid recovery from a left hip injury at Roland-Garros.
“I think each and every time you have the opportunity to play at Wimbledon, it's a feeling of gratitude and opportunity and excitement. I think having that feeling when I walk through the gates of the All England Club for the first time when I was 15, that feeling is still the same each and every day I walk through the gates now.
“I think having that excitement about an event, having the pure enjoyment about an event, is what makes Wimbledon so special.”
The clash with Kerber was high-octane shot-making, Barty utilising her craft to overturn a 0-3 deficit in a compelling second set. At match point the magnitude of the moment hit her, holding back the tears.
“This is close to as good of a tennis match that I will ever play,” declared the top seed. “Being able to have that feeling on the last point was amazing.”
Heading into Saturday’s potentially pulsating finale, Barty holds a 5-2 record (most recently a tight three-set triumph in Stuttgart) against No.8 seed Pliskova.
The 29-year-old, under the guidance of renowned coach Sascha Bajin, hopes to go one better than her 2016 US Open final showing.
“So far my second final, second time I'm playing against a player No.1. I think it can't be any better than that. You want to play the best player in the final. Of course, I don't want anybody else but her there,” insisted the Czech, optimistic ahead of the silverware showdown.
“I think she has extremely difficult game to play. It's going to be difficult on grass because of her slice and just her game overall.
“It's a final. Anything can happen. Also for her, I know she has a Grand Slam, is the first Wimbledon final. I think we both have good chances. It's going to be hopefully good match to watch as well because with her it's always interesting.”
From watching the former world No.1 rally 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in a terrific semi-final against Aryna Sabalenka, you wouldn’t believe her run of recent results.
Bursting with pride
The Czech lost the Rome final without winning a game, fell in the Roland-Garros second round. Over to grass and the world No.13 couldn’t clear the first hurdle in Berlin or Eastbourne. Now, six matches gone, Pliskova has conjured up an efficient run to the final at SW19.
“It's not that I would be playing horrible. Sometimes you're just missing a little bit and you're not doing anything wrong. I think sometimes just to hang in there is super important, which I did. I didn't really change anything.”
Still, a first Wimbledon final, Pliskova is bursting with pride.
“I think still half like I can't believe it because somehow, coming into this tournament, the dream was to make the second week. Never I thought about maybe going into the final,” admitted the No.8 seed, who struck 14 aces in a sizzling serving display against Sabalenka.
“Sascha was super confident in me. He said, ‘I told you you were going to make the final.’ So many amazing players in the draw. I’m just super proud.”