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Photograph: Reuters

It was a historical night on Rod Laver Arena as Ash Barty became the first Australian in 44 years to lift the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.

With the whole nation behind her back, Barty strung together a typically gutsy performance to defeat American Danielle Collins 6-3, 7-6(2) to become the first homegrown champion since Christine O’Neil in 1978.

For the first time in the tournament, Barty was genuinely challenged and had to dig deep to find a way past the fiery power that Collins brought to the table. The vocal home crowd lived every shot with their new champion and inspired her to a huge second set comeback after falling to a 1-5 deficit. This is where Barty displayed the qualities of a true champion.

With her back to the wall the Aussie rode a wave of support from the near-capacity crowd to will herself back into the contest and pile the pressure back onto Collins. The world No. 1 began to methodically pick the American apart and with the help of some devastating forehand winners; strung four games together in a row to level it at 5-5.

The writing was on the wall for Collins after having several opportunities to silence the crowd and send the game to a deciding set. Unfortunately for the American, she began to falter as her opponent rose to the occasion.

As the set headed to a tiebreak, the crowd rose in anticipation for what ultimately would be Barty’s crowning moment. The Aussie stormed her way to a 6-2 lead and with the entire nation on the edge of its seat, she ripped a crosscourt forehand to end a 44-year drought at Melbourne Park.

In an uncharacteristic show of emotion, Barty let out an almighty scream as she flexed towards her player box following the victory.

Barty’s triumph sees her win her third major while also becoming the second active player behind Serena Williams to have won a slam on all three surfaces.

Following the match, Barty sprinted to the other side of the court to embrace former doubles partner and good friend Casey Dellacqua - who brought Barty back into the sport after her stint playing cricket.

Surprise guest and Barty’s childhood hero Evonne Goolagong Cawley presented her with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup before she made a touching speech in front of the adoring crowd.

“Wow. I have said numerous times that I am so lucky tonight to have so many people here that love me, support me,” Barty said.

“Pretty bloody special that mum and dad and my sisters are here and I’m so happy they could be here today.

“I am an incredibly fortunate and lucky girl to have so much love in my corner. And that comes when we started together right from the start in the second part of our career.

“We did it together. Nobody has changed from the team. I love you guys to death and you are the best in the business.

“I cannot thank you for all the time and love you put into and I think as an Aussie, the most important part of this tournament is being able to share it with so many people and you guys today in the crowd have been nothing shy of exceptional.”

A champion both on and off the court, Barty earned her crowning moment after a scintillating two weeks of tennis at Melbourne Park.


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