Ashleigh Barty beats #6 seed and former Wimbledon finalist Garbiñe Muguruza in three sets to reach her second WTA final of 2017 and achieved her first ever Top 20 win on tour, which is by far her best accomplishment in singles since returning to the tour.
Barty’s name drew significant attention from many tennis fans when she won the 2011 Wimbledon juniors title at the age of 15 and has taken like a duck to water to her doubles career, making four Grand Slam finals at all four Grand Slams, which is commendable in itself. Now, after returning to tennis in 2016, following a brief spell in cricket, she is rejuvenated and raring to go on the singles and the doubles court.
The win in Kuala Lumpur was the first WTA triumph for Barty, but this tournament in Birmingham is the first real movement she’s made at this level against much higher quality players like Muguruza. The highest ranked player she’d beaten before this week was No.33 Daniela Hantuchova in Brisbane in 2013, so this is a huge jump in class by winning this semi-final against a much higher ranked opponent.
Barty fell out of love with the sport and needed that time to regroup before she rediscovered what she’d missed so much. She discussed just this following the win of her life in Birmingham: “It’s nice to be able to string a few matches together and be playing reasonably well and be confident out on court coming into Wimbledon.”
Barty also said about how key her Nottingham run last week was: “It was nice to get a couple of good matches, and obviously I had a good match against Jo (Konta), and it’s nice to be able to come up against top players leading into a Slam and try to test myself against the world’s best, but I’m feeling confident.”
A reporter asked Barty whether she had any recollection of the previous meeting against Kvitova at the French Open and Barty’s reaction was great: “Yeah, she absolutely taught me a lesson at the French, I was very young back then, but yeah, she actually wiped the floor with me, so hopefully we can turn the tables a little bit tomorrow.”
She also added: “But yeah, I’m obviously in a very different place. She’s also in a very different place. I mean, not just from my perspective, but I think from everyone, I think it’s amazing to have her back on the tour, and to be successful straightaway is just phenomenal.”
Her sentiment towards Kvitova didn’t stop there, she also said: “I don’ think you can find any female tennis player, any tennis player at all that isn’t happy to see her back and genuinely pleased she’s back on tour and being successful. She’s one of the nicest girls you’ll ever meet, not just in the tennis world. So it’s nice to have her back out on the court.”
Tomorrow’s final has a feel-good outcome either way. Two refreshing comeback stories that warm the hearts of many, but who will come out on top in the showcase final at Birmingham on Sunday?