"It's about creating your own path, your own journey and embracing it," Ashleigh Barty had said at the French Open press conference after her title win over Marketa Vondrousova. The Australian was a bit worried about falling over on the red clay, a surface that hasn't been her best terrain on the WTA circuit.
But obviously, that never happened. When Barty packed her bags and came over to Paris, she would never dream of this grand slam as being the one in capturing a title. She attributes her desire and results in winning the French Open to when she left tennis for nearly two years back in 2014 to concentrate on cricket and play with the Brisbane Heat, a women's team in Australia.
"It was the best decision that I made at that time and it was an even better one coming back," Barty had said smilingly. This season started off good for the Australian as she defeated Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champ and then downed Simona Halep to make it through to the final.
But she would fall to Petra Kvitova which gave her more drive to go on and be successful. There was a quarterfinal at the Miami Open then winning the title from Karolina Pliskova propelling her up to no. 10 ranking in the world.
Doubles was Barty's forte and she'd win 10 titles much with her former partner Casey Dellacqua and last year winning the 2018 US Open Doubles title partnering with CoCo Vandeweghe. This year she paired with Victoria Azarenka to win their first doubles title in Rome at the Italian Open.
The French Open caught Barty quite by surprise from not 'falling over on the red clay as she thought she'd do. It was her techniques of the surface contributed also to winning the title and performing 38 aces against Vondrousova.
The feel for the surface was evident in the first round when she battled with American Danielle Collins who herself has been known to be a gritty and fierce player. But Barty had a close opening set with her of 7-5 yet she started her steamroll and won 7-5, 6-1 to close out the match.
There were three other Americans who the Australian stayed focused and played well against as Sofia Kenin, Madison Keys and Amanda Anisimova found her to be invincible. The true test was the 17-year-old Czech Marketa Vondrousova.
She would give Petra Martic a slugfest of a match and she'd win but not over Ash Barty. The Australian led in the opening set 4-1. The teen tried everything from moving Barty back near the baseline and from side to side. She'd win a few down the line points but it was the Aussie and her ability to find the open court that did it for Vondrousova as well as other talents making Barty go on to win the first set 6-1.
The last set Barty would be involved in a lot of slicing and spinning to make the Czech create unforced errors time and again., The Australian's winning strategy was her ability to mix up her shots propelling her to nearly at the top of the sport.
"..I'm learning how to use my variety and use it as best I can..." she'd said at the press conference. It truly worked for her and it seems like any opponent would become her prey. There were a few overheads smashes from the Czech to gather some points, but Barty was in control and her championship point came when she had to be standing in the doubles alley to hit the return smash for the point, match and first singles grand slam title of her career.
"We have dreams and goals as children, but this is incredible," she grinned. Barty gives all the kudos to her team for giving her the chance of practising and sharpening her talents to get where she is today.
"For us tonight it's a celebration for myself and my team...I have an extraordinary group of people around me. I love working with them every single day in and day out," she explained. Winning her maiden singles grand slam title for her was everything and she says that it "..gave me a new perspective in my life and my career.
It's brought this new belief, this feeling of belonging at the very top level." It is for Ashleigh Barty a dream come true. She was the first Australian winner at Roland Garros since Margaret Court won in 1973 and considers it such a great honour.
She's enjoyed being in the top 10 and worked hard to improve her game tremendously. In a few days her reward isn't only the French Open title, but being ranked number two in the world.