Ash Barty celebrates with Rod Laver. Picture: Getty
Ash Barty celebrates with Rod Laver. Picture: Getty

Rocket fuels Barty’s incredible rise

Tennis icon Rod Laver is generally a very quiet, humble and unassuming man who does not seek the spotlight.

But even "Rocket" - the winner of 11 Grand Slam singles titles and two Grand Slams in 1962 and 1969 - got swept up by the "Barty Party" in Paris.

It is 50 years since Rockhampton's favourite son saluted on the clay at Roland Garros as part of his second Grand Slam clean sweep.

And he was on the red dirt on centre court once again to congratulate Ipswich's favourite daughter with a warm embrace that tugged at the heart strings of a nation and tennis lovers the world over.

It was a beautiful moment among many unforgettable images of Barty's victory for the ages that embodied everything that is great about sport.

Laver has been firmly in the corner of his fellow Queenslander throughout the tournament. Our Rocket is no bandwagon jumper.

Like Barty, Laver did not tower over his rivals. He called on a combination of strength, skill, hard work, tactical nous and courage to carve out his legend.

Maybe he sees a little bit of himself in Barty. Another Queenslander from a regional town that has had to overcome a few obstacles to get to the sport's biggest stages.

He must despair at the on and off court behaviour of Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios. They are not what Australian tennis is about.

Australian tennis legends Evonne Goolagong Cawley and Rod Laver. Picture: AP
Australian tennis legends Evonne Goolagong Cawley and Rod Laver. Picture: AP

But Laver clearly delights in Barty's achievements because she epitomises what we love in our tennis players. They have a dig and do not die wondering.

"It's amazing what she has accomplished here," Laver told a packed media conference in Paris at the start of the second week.

"A couple of years back, she was a good doubles player and played some attractive singles.

"But something happened. She says, 'I know how to win matches now', and that's what Barty has accomplished this year.

"It's more confidence than anything else. With confidence, you can make anything happen."

"She is five foot nothing. When I saw that I thought it must be a misprint. How does she do that (hit aces).''

Before the final got underway, Laver's Twitter account said, "Not long now until @ashbar96 takes centre stage in the @rolandgarros women's final''.

"It's an incredible feeling Ash, enjoy every moment. I believe you can win this title, and in a few weeks give @Wimbledon a shake.

"Seize the day! Rocket.''

And when it was all and said and done and Barty had the title in her back pocket, Rocket's Twitter account spoke for us all.

"Congratulations @ashbar96 - I am so proud of you champion".

And he got to give Barty a hug on our behalf too.