The rowdy spectators seemingly got under Danielle Collins’ skin as Ash Barty mounted a startling comeback in the Australian Open final.
Ash Barty has won her maiden Australian Open title, lifting the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup without dropping a set at Melbourne Park.
The Queenslander becomes the first Aussie woman to be crowned Australian Open champion in 44 years, cementing her place among sporting royalty.
During the topsy-turvy second set on Rod Laver Arena, American opponent Danielle Collins looked to be in the driver’s seat after securing a double break and going up 5-1.
“This is dangerous,” Aussie great Jelena Dokic said on Channel 9.
“Danielle Collins she is to me a lilt bit like (Daniil) Medvedev. She feeds off the crowd energy. Even if they are not going for her. She uses it in a way that fires her up. So this is very, very dangerous when Danielle Collins gets like that. Which is what we’re seeing now.”
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But Barty showed her class and composure to put the second set back on serve and force a tiebreak, where she cruised to a 6-3 7-6 (7-3) straight sets victory.
The vocal home crowd seemingly started to get under Collins’ skin late in the second set, with the 28-year-old losing her composure as Barty mounted a comeback.
“After she missed her first serve, someone in the crowd said, ‘That missed two metres’, she fist pumped back at him when she won the next point,” former Aussie tennis star Casey Dellacqua said on Channel 9.
“The crowd are well and truly getting into it. There was someone heckling Collins a little bit. She gave it right back to him when she won a point.
“I wouldn‘t want to get Collins too fired up.”
At one stage at 5-3, Collins walked up to chair umpire Marijana Veljovic and demanded she tell the spectators to stop yelling during her service motion.
Veljovic obliged: “Ladies and gentlemen, please as a courtesy to both players, do not shout out during play. Thank you.”
But it ultimately didn’t matter, with Barty breaking serve immediately after to reduce the deficit to 5-4.
Speaking to reporters after Saturday’s loss, Collins said she thrives in a lively environment when asked about a spectator heckling her as a journalist suggested the American was “giving it back to them”.
“I think for those who’ve watched me over the last couple of years have kind of seen that and learned that,” she said. “I love nothing more than someone doing something like that because I love competing and trying to make it fun.
“It’s not easy going out and playing someone pretty much on their home court, on home soil, in the finals of a major, but this is what we live for in sports, right? These are incredible moments that you don’t get to experience very often.
“It was a real honour to be out there. I tried to embrace every moment, I tried to get the crowd fired up. I tried to get myself into it, did everything I could.”
Collins was gracious in defeat, congratulating Barty and thanking the Australian Open organisers in her post-match speech.
“First and foremost, we would not be standing here without all of the awesome people behind this tournament, so I would like to thank everybody that has helped put on this event, year after year, it is one of my favourites to come to and compete at,” she said.
“I am so grateful to be able to come here. It is a childhood dream of mine. I thank every single one of you especially Craig (Tiley), I think this is most of the players‘ favourite grand slam, so thank you so much.
“And all of the volunteers this week, who have been so encouraging and fun to be around.
“And all of the players and the support staff especially the physios and the medical staff, I am honestly just lucky to be out here competing and to have gotten this far has been incredible.”
Collins had surgery last year to treat endometriosis — a painful condition that affects roughly one-in-10 women as tissue that usually lines the inside of the uterus grows outside the uterus.
It was so bad that it saw her in agonising pain during tournaments in 2021.
“With some of the adversity I have faced physically earlier in the tournament, I would not be able to do what I did today or the rest of the tournament without the medical staff and the dedicated physios who have worked around the clock, to be here every single day for all of us,” she said.
“I want to thank everybody who came to support me.
“It is time to celebrate a big night for Ash, and thank you, everyone, thank you to everyone who came and supported us.”
Collins had never progressed beyond the quarter-finals of a grand slam tournament before this year’s Australian Open, and the American is expected to skyrocket up the WTA rankings after her stellar performance in Melbourne Park.
– with Rohan Smith
Originally published as ‘Average behaviour’: Ash Barty’s rival fumes at Melbourne Park crowd