(Australian Associated Press)
Tennis or otherwise, Ash Barty hopes to jolt a whole new generation of Indigenous children with her awe-inspiring feats on the court.
Barty’s heartwarming run to Wimbledon glory provided the ultimate exclamation mark to NAIDOC week on the 50th anniversary of fellow Indigenous sporting great Evonne Goolagong Cawley’s first triumph at The All England Club in 1971.
“Yeah, Evonne is a very special person in my life. She has been iconic in paving a way for young Indigenous youth to believe in their dreams and to chase their dreams. She’s done exactly that for me as well,” Barty said.
“Being able to share that with her and share some pretty special victories now with her, to be able to create my own path is really incredible, really exciting.
“She’s just been an icon for years and years, not just on the tennis court. Her legacy off the court is incredible. If I could be half the person that Evonne is, I’d be a very, very happy person.”
After capturing the hearts of the nation once again with a stylish second grand slam triumph in little more than two years, Barty craves to create her own legacy.
The 25-year-old – who says it’s “really, really cool” knowing Goolagong Cawley is “only ever a phone call away” – doesn’t care how she inspires youngsters, especially the Indigenous.
Just as long she does.
“Of course I would love to see as many young boys and girls, Indigenous included, playing tennis,” Barty said.
“I think it’s a sport that you can play for life.
“It’s also important to experience all different types of sports and kind of find your first love.
“I know through Evonne’s foundation, she creates an opportunity that’s not just sport but through education as well and that’s a massive part of Indigenous youth.
“Being able to open some doors and options and avenues to allow kids to dream and discover what they want to do when they’re older.
“Obviously if I can create a smile on a young boy or girl’s face or be able to inspire them in a way, that would absolutely make my day.
“Being able to live out my dreams and stories with them is a massive part of that learning as well.”
Goolagong Cawley likened Barty to a “little sister” and felt her kindred spirit was destined to win Saturday night’s cliffhanger final against Czech Karolina Pliskova.
“All the way through I just sort of had this feeling that Ash’s going to win. This is her time,” Goolagong Cawley said.
“You know, somebody up there’s looking down on us, I think, and during NAIDOC week.
“We’re both very proud. I’m a Wiradjuri woman from NSW and she’s a very proud Aboriginal also, and so what a way to celebrate, not just my 50 years since I won there but it was NAIDOC week and it was very important.”