That’s a wrap for Wimbledon 2021. On Saturday, Ash Barty achieved her childhood dream, winning a nerve-jangling three set finale against Karolina Pliskova, 6-3 6-7(4) 6-3, to win her first Wimbledon title. Also a hand for the women’s doubles final which was bloody fantastic! Hsieh Su-Wei defended her title, this time with Elise Mertens, saving two Championship points to beat Elena Vesnina and Veronika Kudermetova, 3-6 7-5 9-7. What a day of tennis and what an amazing two weeks. I know the Wimby withdrawals are going to hit hard next week. Read on for my final post…
Final Highlights 🏆
This final between Ash Barty and Karolina Pliskova was the first three set Wimbledon final since 2012 when Serena Williams beat Agnieszka Radwanska. Just like the semi-finals on Thursday, the streak of straight setters was snapped! The quality of tennis wasn’t the best but the drama and excitement helped to make this a captivating final. Let’s try and recap how it unfolded…
Barty got off to a quick start, winning the first 14 points! My goodness did Pliskova look nervous at the start. Pliskova’s first serve was 84mph and she was barely moving. I started thinking of her last final against Iga Swiatek in Rome. It was 16 straight games lost if you join up to that Rome final. I was relieved when Pliskova won her first point and then her first game. There was a wry smile! Barty played a solid opener and didn’t give much away, at least early on. I thought the level was shaky from both players… and that is completely understandable considering the occasion of playing their first Wimbledon final. Barty played a convincing game to close out the first set, 6-3.
I thought Pliskova was settling at the start of the second set. Then at 1-1, Pliskova played an absolute shocker of a service game with two double faults and two forehand errors. Barty led 6-3 3-1* 30-30*. Cue a plot twist. Pliskova began to find some rhythm on her serve and hit more freely. A cracking forehand return winner helped Pliskova break back to level the second set at 3-3.
The second set went with serve until 5-5. Pliskova looked comfortable on serve at *40-0. A miss at the net let Barty back in who played her smartest game of the match. Barty kept blocking and chipping returns back into play, no mean feat up against the Pliskova serve, and her backhand slice was absolutely lethal. The bite was immense! Barty broke to bring up an opportunity to serve for the Championships at 6-3 *6-5. Barty was broken to 15. Eek. Barty’s first serve completely evaded her as Pliskova landed a series of deep meaningful returns. Into the second set tiebreak and Pliskova had the momentum, the crowd and the luck! Two net cords went Pliskova’s way and the crowd was definitely behind her. Us Brits love an underdog! Barty double faulted on Pliskova’s third set point. One set all.
Barty opened the third set with crucial hold at deuce as she found some first serves again. Pliskova’s second set momentum disappeared in a flash as Barty broke straight away, thanks to a shocking Pliskova miss at the net. Barty then consolidated the break to lead 3-0 in the third set. All Barty had to do was hold her serve from here on in and she did. It doesn’t tell the whole story though!
Barty’s last three service games all went to 30-30. The first serve was up and down in the decider. When serving for the Championship at *5-3, Barty missed just ONE first serve and that was on match point! It was another nervy game and Barty sent a forehand drive volley into the net at 30-30. I was officially losing my s**t at this point 😂. But Barty hung in, somehow dug out an incredible shot from a Pliskova return down *30-40 – I want to see that point again! Barty brought up her first Championship point and she converted!
Final Analysis 🤔
I was rooting for Barty in this final. I’m really glad though that Pliskova managed to shake off the nerves and make it such a thrilling contest. Through the first six rounds, Pliskova had dropped her serve just four times. Barty broke it six times alone in the final. While Pliskova got her serve going midway through the second set, it wasn’t the reliable weapon that it has been for the entire tournament. Pliskova and Barty won the same percentage of points behind the first serve but it was the second serve stats that were telling – Barty won 54% of points behind her second serve compared to just 35% for Pliskova.
Pliskova began to open up in the second and third sets. Generally though, I felt she was mostly passive in the rallies and that must have been connected in some part to the nerves because it was night and day in comparison to how she played Sabalenka. Barty had the clearer gameplan, using the backhand slice to neutralise and hold her ground in the rallies and then look for the forehand. The Barty slice was *the* shot in the first set and at the very end of the second set when she served for it. Pliskova definitely seemed to deal it with better as the match wore on. I thought Barty’s forehand was *the* shot in the third set and she didn’t shy away from taking it on.
This was a sensationally unexpected run from Pliskova. It’s been such a strange year for Karolina! I think her level has been well below par for much of the year but i’d go as far to say that she probably played her best ever tennis at this tournament, particularly in the quarters and semis. I am curious to see where she goes from here.
My key takeaway for Barty is her remarkable resilience and ability to reset. Barty served for the Championships at 6-3 *6-5 and there’s no sugar coating it, she was tight… and who wouldn’t be?! And then to lose the second set tiebreak on a double fault with the crowd firmly behind Pliskova? How do you come back from that mentally?!?! Just watching the match, I was shaking 😂. I can’t even put into words my appreciation for the mental strength that Barty demonstrated. This match followed a trend of many Barty matches in 2021. It’s the 11th time (!) this year that she has won the first set, wobbled in the second but managed to reset and come back to win the third.
I’ve written a lot about Ash on the blog. She is my favourite player to watch and I was so invested in this match. I was a wreck. I wanted her to win today so badly! Barty’s tennis IQ is second-to-none with the way she constructs tennis points. I love the backhand slice and the way she uses it to drive her opponents crazy and ultimately get the rally on her own terms so she can dictate with her forehand.
And Ash is such a nice, down-to-earth person. I’m a sucker for a nice person. I’ve seen a lot of negativity on Tennis Twitter over the past year about Ash which I just can’t fathom. Basically I need to get off Twitter and just live in my own happy tennis bubble 😂 . I’m absolutely thrilled for Ash and it’s the happiest i’ve been at a Slam result for a while. Even with the recency bias, I honestly think Ash will go onto win multiple Wimbledons. Ash, you’re a superstar ⭐.
Super stat 🔢
Could it be any more fitting or poignant that Barty won 50 years after Evonne Goolagong Cawley won her first Wimbledon title and was wearing a dress to commemorate that moment. Ash was holding it together in the post-match interview with Sue Barker until she mentioned Evonne 😭.
Best point 🎾
Two fantastic points that captured the imagination of the crowd.
Funny moment 🤣
This reaction was to a Pliskova miss. Billie Jean King’s reaction 😂😂😂 .
Snap of the day 📸
I knew this would do the rounds. Will never get old.
Press highlights 📰
Ash’s final press conference. She expanded on the hip injury from the French 😲!
Recommended media 📺
The post-match interviews with Sue. The emotions from both players 😥. It was a draining match!
Recommended reading 📚
ICYMI: My diary from visiting Wimbledon in the first week of the Championships.
Wimbledon 2021. It’s been a special one. It was always going to be like this after the overwhelming void that a cancelled Wimbledon created last year. I think it’s been an especially good Wimby with so many memorable moments. In the first week, each day I expected things to calm down but the talking points kept coming thick and fast. Just to name a few – from Carla’s delightful send-off on Centre Court to the arrival of Emma Raducanu and the Ostapenko-Tomljanovic drama! 😂
It was a tournament that produced many great matches that will definitely be in my thoughts come the end of the season with the best matches countdown. The ones that spring to mind – Kerber vs. Sorribes Tormo, Jabeur vs. Muguruza, Pliskova vs. Sabalenka, Barty vs. Kerber and Sabalenka vs. Boulter. And personally i’m thrilled how it ended with Ash winning her first ever Wimbledon title!!!
Time for a break on the blog. Thanks for all your comments and I loved reading them all! 🙂