Barty’s historic ‘whirlwind’ domination
Ashleigh Barty will be the World No. 1 women's player after an emphatic straight sets win over German Julia Goerges to take out the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham.
The battle between Barty and Naomi Osaka had plenty riding on this event with Barty needing a win at either Birmingham or next week at Eastbourne to claim the crown of the top ranked woman in the world ahead of Wimbledon, which starts on July 1.
Barty made no mistake, claiming the Birmingham crown with a 6-3 7-5 win over Goerges.
Barty raced through the Birmingham field without dropping a set. She even went down 3-0 in the second set of the final but found her way back to clinch the set and maintain her perfect record.
The victory ends the 18-week reign of Osaka, the US and Australian Open champion, with Barty edging past the Japanese star, who was knocked out in the second round in Birmingham.
With Osaka taking next week off to rest and recover ahead of her Wimbledon charge, Barty pounced at the first opportunity.
The 23-year-old Queenslander won her 12th straight match and her sixth career WTA singles title.
It was her third title of the season, including her breakthrough Grand Slam victory at the French Open victory.
The French Open triumph surprised the world with Barty's preferred surface being grass rather than clay. It was such a surprise, the former Junior Wimbledon champion's parents skipped Roland Garros to make sure they were at Wimbledon.
Now she will be favourite to add both titles to her trophy case.
And Barty, at just 23, has the world at her feet now she has matched her hero Evonne Goolagong Cawley.
The victory means Barty is the first Australian woman since Goolagong Cawley's two week reign in 1976 to be ranked World No. 1.
She is the first Australian of any gender to be singles World No. 1 since Lleyton Hewitt's reign ended in 2003.
Barty will also be the 27th woman in 49 years to be ranked the world's best player when she is crowned on Monday.
Goerges was interviewed first post-game and shed some tears in praising the new world rankings leader.
The unflappable and humble Barty, clutching her latest trophy, took the time to praise her latest vanquished opponent.
"It's just been the most incredible journey for myself and my team," she said. "Jules (Goerges), I couldn't think of a better person to share the court with. We've had an incredible week in singles and doubles. You're one of my best friends on tour, you've always been there for me ever since I was just a little tacker running around annoying everybody.
"You always dream as a little kid (to be World No. 1) but to have this become a reality is incredible. It wasn't something that was even in my realm this year - we were aiming for top 10. It's a testament to all the people I have around me.
"I have the most incredible team of people who have been with me these last three years. We started from scratch three-and-a-half years ago without a ranking and to be where were are, it's a massive massive achievement for them."
She is also the first Aussie to win the trophy in Birmingham as well but the latest world champion was stunned by the victory and the comparisons to Goolagong Cawley.
"I'm a bit speechless at the moment," she said. "It's been a whirlwind few weeks for me, it's been a whirlwind year. But to be able to follow in the footsteps of Evonne and even to be mentioned in the same sentence as her is incredible and what she's done for our sport and Australians all around the world, she's put us on the map. And what she's done for Indigenous Australians has just been remarkable."
As for what's next in the celebration: "I'll get in the car and head to Eastbourne".
The battle for the top ranked player in the world has been heated between Barty and Osaka with Barty gaining plenty of points for her French Open triumph.
Osaka admited earlier in the week she's struggling on the new surface.
"I don't know. You know grass, I'm not really that comfortable with it," she said earlier in the week.
"And it's always the first tournament that's the hardest. I have only practised twice on grass because it was raining a lot.
"It's just really different to everything that I have ever played on because at least on clay … It's similar to green clay which I kind of grew up playing, but grass, I have never, like, as a little kid, I have never played on grass so."
It could mean Wimbledon is ripe for the picking for Barty to extend her lead at the top of the women's rankings.
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Barty was reportedly battling some right arm soreness after a heavy schedule which saw her pull out of the doubles in Birmingham - where she was coincidentally partnered with Goerges - in the semi-finals.
She told officials it was more a precaution with a heavy schedule ahead of Wimbledon and showed no issues in the final.
Barty faced two break points in her first service game but held strong.
She then flipped the script in the sixth game of the set with a stunning break before serving out the set 6-3.
The second set, she fell behind 3-0 but stormed back, breaking at 5-all and serving out the match.
The latest Aussie champion covered her mouth and leapt around as her monumental feat sunk in.
Goerges' emotional post-match interview praised the Aussie and her incredible rise.
"Ash deserves to win because she was the better player in the important moments," she said. "I did everything I could today but she was better.
"It's a special moment today for Ash. I'm very glad I can share it with you because becoming number one in the World is a very special thing and you became a big friend of mine and I'm very happy that you achieved this goal."