Ash Barty’s historic win at the French Open over the weekend was enough to make even the most disgruntled Aussie proud.
The young Indigenous Australian was a picture of grace, graciousness and sheer talent as she powered through to beat 19-year-old Czech Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 6-3.
In her victory speech, she humbly thanked her supporters, family and former tennis great Evonne Goolagong Cawley, for paving the way for her to follow. Goolagong Cawley was the last Australian woman to win the French Open in 1971.
“It’s amazing how she’s created this path for Indigenous tennis in Australia and I think now it’s becoming more nationwide,” the 23-year-old champion told a packed arena.
“There’s more opportunities for kids to play tennis, both male and female, and I hope we can continue to create those opportunities and let kids know that this is an option for a career. And even if it’s not, it’s a sport that they can play for life.”
Goolagong Cawley also paid tribute to Barty’s incredible win, and alluded to the significance of her being another trailblazing Indigenous woman.
“I’m almost scared to say it but it’s now 48 years ago since I won my first slam there too,” Goolagong Cawley said in a statement.
“What a wonderful result for Australia and how exciting that another Aboriginal has won at the French Open. Tennis Australia and all lovers of tennis here and around the world will be delighted by the natural skills and flair Ash possesses.”
Goolagong Cawley’s sentiments are exactly right, but there’s another reason why Ash Barty’s win is so unbelievably excellent: Right now, at a time when several male pro-athletes are acting like petulant, self-serving brats, women and girls have sporting role models they can unconditionally look up to.
Just like Barty, The Matildas were all class during their first World Cup match up against Italy on Sunday night. They may not have come away with the win (although it was nail-bitingly close) but they conducted themselves like the leaders we expect them to be.
During a post-match interview, Captain Sam Kerr didn’t make excuses or present a surly demeanour to the cameras. Instead, she took ownership saying the team had stumbled late into injury time, but that she was confident they would “stick together” and make an impact in France.
Across sporting codes– cricket, AFL, NRL, netball, basketball, you name it; female athletes are making us all proud not simply because of their talent (which is undeniable) but because of their spirit.
They are the athletes we need to celebrate right now.