BRISBANE, Australia — Evonne Goolagong Cawley says fellow indigenous athlete Ash Barty’s first Grand Slam singles title at the French Open was "a joy to watch."
Goolagong Cawley won the French Open in 1971, the first of her seven Grand Slam singles tennis titles.
"What a wonderful result for Australia and how exciting that another Aboriginal has won at the French," Goolagong Cawley said Sunday. "I’m almost scared to say it but it’s now 48 years ago I won my first Slam there, too.
"Tennis Australia and lovers of tennis here and around the world will be delighted by the natural skills and flair Ash possesses. Now they have developed into a beautiful game full of artistry, movement and power. It was there for all to marvel at in Paris. She is a joy to watch."
Goolagong Cawley went on to win Wimbledon for her second major title four weeks later in 1971. Barty will go there with renewed confidence on a grass surface she considered her favourite — until winning on clay on Saturday.
Over the past few years, Goolagong Cawley has become a mentor and friend with Barty, exchanging frequent texts, phone calls and having get-togethers when Barty is back in Australia.
Barty’s 6-1, 6-3 victory over Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic in the Roland Garros women’s final ended at 1:45 a.m. Sunday on the east coast of Australia. Goolagong Cawley and her husband Roger Cawley said they didn’t get to bed at their home on the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane until 6 a.m. after receiving frequent international phone calls over Barty’s victory.
Goolagong Cawley also passed along her congratulations to Barty in Paris, but wanted to keep the contents of the exchange confidential.
"Ash has already heard from me and knows how happy I am for her and her lovely family," Goolagong Cawley said.
Through a great-grandmother on her father Robert’s side, Barty is descended from the Ngarigo indigenous people on the border between Victoria and New South Wales states. She considers herself an indigenous athlete and has said "my heritage is really important to me."
Barty will rise to No. 2 in the WTA rankings, the highest for an Australian woman since Goolagong Cawley, who is a member of the Wiradjuri people, was No. 1 in April 1976.
Australian legend Rod Laver, who was at Roland Garros to watch Barty win, also tweeted his congratulations .
Cricket lovers were also quick to congratulate the Australian, taking a little bit of credit for her rise in the world of tennis.
Barty took nearly two years out from tennis to play for the Brisbane Heat in Australia’s women’s cricket league. The time out from tennis seems to have done her some good, with her ranking going in the right direction since her stint with the bat and ball.
The International Cricket Council congratulated Barty in a Twitter post that said "You can take the athlete out of cricket, but you can’t take cricket out of the athlete!"
The Brisbane Heat was more effusive, telling Barty "We are so proud of you!"
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison also took to Twitter on Sunday to praise Barty’s "stunning victory in the French Open. Our newest Aussie champion!"