By Ros Satar at the Nature Valley Classic, Birmingham

  • Ashleigh Barty [2] def. Julia Goerges [8] 6-3 7-5
  • Becomes the new World No. 1 when the rankings come out on Monday, and the second Australian to reach No. 1 since Evonne Goolagong Cawley.
BIRMINGHAM, UK – Ashleigh Barty became the just the second Australian since Evonne Goolagong Cawley to reach the World No 1 spot after winning the Nature Valley Classic title.

 

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Ashleigh Barty [2] def. Julia Goerges [8] 6-3 7-5

In what turned out to be an intriguing match of twists and turns, Ashleigh Barty lifted the Maud Watson trophy after defeating Julia Goerges at the Nature Valley Classic at Birmingham, as well as capturing the World No. 1 spot.

At the start it was a veritable game of cat and mouse between the friends who practice together and had teamed up for doubles here this week. In fact, it could have been a double for either of them as they had made the doubles semi-final before Barty pulled out with a slight arm issue.

It was Goerges who brought up the first chances to break in the first game but could not quite get off to the flyer she wanted, and with competitive games to follow, it was maybe a softer game from Goerges that gifted Barty a 4-2 lead with a break, with Barty wrapping up the set comfortably.

In the second set, it was the German who got off to a better start, jumping out to a 3-0 lead, before Barty patiently worked her way back in, producing big shots when it counted – three aces on set point – eroding that lead, and finally edging over the line for not just the title, but the World No. 1 spot.

Ashleigh Barty (l) and Julia Goerges (r) after the final of the Nature Valley Classic, Birmingham 2019

Ashleigh Barty (l) and Julia Goerges (r) after the final of the Nature Valley Classic, Birmingham 2019 | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Goerges let her emotions show as she congratulated Barty in reaching the World No. 1 spot, with Barty kidding that Goerges had always tolerated her when she was a ‘young little tucker’ running around when she first came on tour.

She explained: “Ash and I have a long story already going on, but when Ash was 15 years old at French Open she got a wildcard and I was always like talking to her, we had a lot of fun moments already and then she retired again.

“I always thought she’s never going to stop, she will come back one day because she loves the sport so much, but she just had enough at that time. But I’ve always said to her, “Hey, that wasn’t it, you are going to come back” and we stayed always in contact over that years as well when she was still playing cricket and, for me, to be able to share this moment with her, was just something special and if I had to choose to lose someone today to become the No. 1, I would pick her definitely. That is why it was very emotional for me.”

Although the more experienced of the pair, Goerges had admitted that it was only when she allowed herself to ‘accept’ the grass, she became a lot more solid.

After her semi-final, she said: “I think the mental approach, I was always a bit too frustrated about things, when they weren’t going my way, especially on grass, sometimes the ball it is just rolling and it’s not bouncing anymore so you cannot do anymore about it. And I learnt how to accept those circumstances and it is what it is.

“On other surfaces, okay, you make mistakes and you know what you did. On grass, sometimes you don’t make anything wrong and the ball just keeps rolling and you cannot do anything about it and that is the biggest defence what I have learnt in the last two years on grass.”

 

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Ashleigh Barty before the final of the Nature Valley Classic, Birmingham 2019

Ashleigh Barty before the final of the Nature Valley Classic, Birmingham 2019 | Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

Barty started from scratch after taking a sabbatical away from the sport, three years ago. She chose to walk away from the sport after the 2014 US Open, only returning to the tour in 2016. In that time, she enjoyed a successful stint with the Brisbane Heat cricket team in the inaugural 2015-2016 Big Bash League.

Acknowledging her friendship with Goerges, she said: “Jules has always made time for me ever since I started on tour and I think that relationship developed a bit through Casey. She introduced me to a lot of the really good girls on tour and that relationship’s grown, but Jules and her whole team have always made time for me, we have always enjoyed practicing together and spending time with each other and as I said it’s hard playing a friend but in a final I think you’d love to play a friend knowing you have both earned that spot.”

“Jules is an incredible competitor and she is never going to hand a match over lightly and she is always going to come up with her best stuff when her back is against the wall. So, it was important for me to try and stay in touch and getting that break back early in the set was really important to not kind of give her a sniff of winning a set on her serve.”

Barty has of course lifted silverware here, having won the doubles title with Casey Dellaqua, after losing in the singles final to Petra Kvitova in 2017.

After posting a career best season-finish in 2018 (World No. 15) she won Australia’s Newcombe medal and she is now the second Australian to reach No. 1 following in the foot-steps of a heroine of hers, Evonne Goolagong Cawley. In her current 12-match winning streak she has dropped just two sets, on the clay of Paris.

When asked how the two victories compared, she said: “Very different feelings. I think very unique feelings, both of them. But really hard to put into words, I think. Particularly at the French, it was just, it felt like a whirlwind. And this week felt more like a regular week if there’s such a thing just to try and go about things the right way and be really process-based.

“It’s just hard to put into words what we have been able to achieve over the last few years and to be where we are now is just incredible.”

Barty is scheduled to play in Eastbourne, which began on Sunday.

 

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