“Destiny fulfilled”, declared the commentator when Ashleigh Barty clinched her first Wimbledon and second Grand Slam title. “The stars aligned for me over the past fortnight”, Barty concurred after.

While fate doesn’t factor in sport, a Wimbledon title certainly seemed to be written in the stars for Barty. But the route to achieving what so many including her believed to be foretold, often felt like a space expedition – littered with several failures to launch and get the moving parts together.

In a way, the women’s singles final on Saturday felt like a microcosm of Barty’s career so far. The world No 1 beat Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-3 in a match between first-time Wimbledon finalists heavily underlined by nerves, momentum shifts and mental fortitude.

Barty won the first 14 points of the match and had a 4-0 lead, but was broken while serving for the first set the first time. She failed to close the final while serving for it in the second and was pushed to a decider after losing the tiebreak. She even faced a breakpoint while serving for the Championship in the third, before managing to edge over the finish line. For all the superior skill she has shown throughout the fortnight on grass, in the end it became a mental battle she had to win.

It was the first Wimbledon women’s singles final to go to three sets since 2012 as Barty became the first top seed since Serena Williams in 2016 to win the Venus Rosewater Dish and just the fourth junior champion to win the senior event as well.

Look deeper and this final has been the theme of the 25-year-old’s career. A prodigious player who struggled with the intangible aspects of the game and needed to hit the reset button. She took the scenic but satisfying route to fulfilling her immense potential: a world No 1, two-time Grand Slam champion and an uber-consistent player with a unique skill set.

Facing googlies

The top seed came into the Championship as the overwhelming favourite for a number of reasons. Barty has a strong and versatile game style suited just right for grass – it has a vintage quality to it with variations of pace, angles and a weapons-grade backhand slice that cuts deep on the surface. A teen prodigy, she had won the junior title exactly 10 years ago as a 15-year-old.

But whoever was writing this script threw in a fair bit of googlies against the former Australian domestic cricketer.

Barty came with a hip injury that scuppered her grass season after being forced to retire hurt from her second-round French Open match. It was only after she won the title she was so focussed on, that her team revealed to her the actual seriousness of what experts said was a ‘two-month injury’.

“Being able to play here at Wimbledon was nothing short of a miracle,” she admitted in the press conference. Destiny, again.

Additionally, Barty had taken a 11-month break last year choosing not to travel during the pandemic (she won a golf tournament back home though) and this had raised some questions over her ranking. Since her return, the generally universally liked player won four titles from five finals to put this doubt to rest. And this time away, like the mental health break she took as a teenager, seemed to bring her closer to the game.

And if the pressure of being the favourite and little match preparation was not enough, this Wimbledon also marked 50 years since Evonne Goolagong Cawley’s first title in 1971. A fellow indigenous Australian and her mentor, Goolagong Cawley and her inspirational tale is closely tied with Barty. As a tribute, Barty was wearing an outfit similar to her scallop-hemmed skirt.

Pause, rewind, play: Fifty years before Ash Barty – story of Evonne Goolagong Cawley’s Wimbledon win

Other than her own childhood dream, Barty was also looking to emulate her idol’s breakthrough achievement. At times, it felt like Barty was quite literally wearing the pressure she was feeling.

But in a defining moment, Barty didn’t hide behind it or brush it aside; instead she embraced it. She was straightforward about her goal from the start and this weight showed in many moments when she looked tight and needed to back her crafty game with grit and tactical thinking.

For a player who was once overwhelmed by the tour and had to take a break from tennis at the age of 18, this is a seminal step. She has been candid about her love for the traditional home of tennis and was disarmingly honest about the effort it took to actually proclaim it.

“It took me a long time to verbalise the fact that I wanted to dare to dream and say I wanted to win this incredible tournament... I didn’t sleep a lot last night, I was thinking of all the what ifs, but I think when I was coming out on this court I felt at home in a way.”

— – Ash Barty

Her first Major at the 2019 French Open had been a surprise, almost as big as her bowing out in the fourth round of the subsequent Wimbledon to the unheralded Alison Riske. Her second triumph feels like it was meant to be.

But this quote is more in line with the work Barty had to put in to realise a dream that everyone seemed to think was inevitable. Her silent tears after winning, the ‘un-elegant’ climb to her player box, getting choked up when saying “I hope I made Evonne proud” are testaments to just how much it meant to get this, an expected win.

Barty was always meant to win a Wimbledon title, not because of the stars but her own stellar game, work ethic and belief.