Ash Barty has been hailed as a Roger Federer-like game changer who could inspire a whole new generation of Australian tennis players to become champions.
Barty’s drought-breaking success for the domestic game in the Australian Open persuades seven-time grand slam champion Mats Wilander that she could go on to win 10 more major titles and transform the sport’s future in her home country.
With her attractive all-court game allied to her humble, down-to-earth personality, Wilander, a triple Open champion himself, calls her the “total package”.
“The whole history of Australian tennis can change with someone like Ash Barty, who just transcends the sport, taking it into every living room,” said Wilander on Eurosport.
“We could have some serious champions coming out in 15, 20 years from Australia because of this day,” he added, after watching Barty become the first home hope in 44 years to lift the women’s singles title with her victory over Danielle Collins.
“What it’s done for the course of the tennis nation is so important. Because, obviously, there are young boys and girls who are watching this and when she’s that nice, the parents will definitely want to push their kids into tennis.”
Wilander believes that Barty is a “game changer” in terms of the technical development of her sport too, believing that her all-round skills are so excellent that others will have to play catch-up, just as others had to pursue 20-time major champion Federer.
“She can win 10 more slams in my book,” said Wilander.
“She’s going to take the women’s game to the next level because we’re not talking about a Serena Williams who just blows you off the court.
“With Ash Barty, you’re going to have this problem that she’s taking tennis to the next level just like Roger Federer did.
“If you’re Naomi Osaka watching this (final), you’re going to have to come out with some serious weapons and variety, or you’re not beating Ash Barty – so I think she’s going to push the level up.
“She can win all four of the grand slams. I didn’t see a style that’s going to other her on any specific surface, I don’t see a surface that bothers her.
“I would put her in to play for me any day because I know I’m going to get the best Barty you can get on the day.
“She’s going to problem solve, she’s going to have that serve, that sliced backhand – so she’s the total package for me.
“And I love it that she talks about her opponents so much. Other players say, ‘I’m going play my own game’. Well, Ash Barty plays the game that doesn’t suit her opponent – and that’s the sign of a great champion to me.”
Typically modest, Barty shrugged off comparisons to Williams, the only other active women’s player, to have claimed grand slam titles on clay, grass and hard courts.
The humble superstar was happy to escape the Melbourne Park limelight and return home to Brisbane on Monday to quietly celebrate her famous victory with family and close friends.
The world No.1 will take a fortnight off to rest and recover before sitting down with coach Craig Tyzzer to plot her playing schedule for the rest of 2022.