By Courtney Walsh
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – When Evonne Goolagong Cawley first saw Ash Barty in Melbourne, she was mesmerized.
Barty was only a teenager, but she already had the style of the type of player the four-time Australian Open winner had been waiting for, for what felt like a lifetime, to get out of the women’s ranks.
Seven-time Grand Slam champion Goolagong Cawley will watch her boyfriend play Danielle Collins in the Australian Open final on Saturday from her living room in Queensland.
Like Barty’s lead up to last year’s Wimbledon final, Goolagong Cawley has decided not to speak until after the world’s first Australian Open final.
That worked out a treat last July.
After Barty broke through for her first major title at Roland Garros in 2019, she compared her style to Roger Federer.
“I remember seeing her for the first time at the Australian Open… and I saw one point and she had every shot involved in that one point and all the skills came out and even though she lost that match I just knew she had it. had. ,” she said.
Barty’s athleticism is remarkable. Her team is small but, in line with current trends, has a mindset coach to sharpen her mind and well-being.
But in her style and attitude, from her slippy, carved backhands to the humility with which she handles success, she’s also a throwback to Australia’s golden generation.
The ties to those champions are as strong as her serve, which has only been broken once in this Australian Open.
In addition to mentoring Goolagong Cawley, Barty is also friends with Pat Rafter, the popular Australian who was once coached by Tony Roche, who in turn was a member of the generation of talent brought in by legendary coach Harry Hopman.
Rod Laver was on the field for her games this week and is delighted with her progress since returning to the track after a break.
Laver is one of the Australians who have been waiting for a new champion for 44 years, dating back to Chris O’Neil’s success in Kooyong in 1978.
O’Neil, who will attend the final, told Melbourne newspaper The Age that she “enjoyed being a good trivia question” but will be delighted when Barty breaks the drought.
“She’s a one-off, I think,” she said.
Paint was peeling off the walls at Kooyong’s as O’Neil reveled in her great moment. Melbourne Park, on the other hand, is the envy of the tennis world with six sparkling stadium courts.
But in keeping with her ties to the greats, and also as an indication of her laid-back demeanor, Barty has said she would have loved to play an Australian Open at Kooyong.
“I’ve said a few times that I wish maybe I was born in a different era and that I could play on grass all year round. It would have been incredible,” she said.
“But the development that has come with the move to Melbourne Park has been incredible to encourage fans to come and enjoy with us.”
The 25-year-old hopes to give fans an unforgettable experience on Saturday as she writes her name in the record books.
“(I’ll) go out there and embrace it, smile, try and do what I can and whatever happens, happens,” she said.
(Reporting by Courtney Walsh; editing by Peter Rutherford)