In a heartwarming tribute, retired tennis superstar Ash Barty expressed her deep admiration for her idol, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, as the Australian Open announced a significant annual celebration in her honour.
Fifty years after lifting the iconic Australian Open trophy for the first time, Goolagong Cawley, a trailblazer in the world of tennis, was recognised for her remarkable contributions to the sport, her nation, and her Indigenous heritage. The announcement was made in a touching ceremony at Rod Laver Arena just before the women’s semifinals.
Starting from the year 2025, the Australian Open will dedicate the first week of the event to celebrating First Nations culture, and the occasion will officially be known as Evonne Goolagong Cawley Day. This decision serves as a fitting tribute to the legendary athlete, acknowledging her enduring impact on tennis and her significant role in advancing Indigenous representation in the sport.
Barty, who shares a close friendship and mentorship with her, took to Instagram to express her emotions and gratitude for her idol.
“A friend, mentor, icon and absolute legend. What an incredible person you are, Evonne,” Barty wrote.
“A special year celebrating the 50th anniversary of your first AO win, but an even greater appreciation and acknowledgement of your entire career with the renaming of a very special day – Evonne Goolagong Cawley Day.
“I cherish our relationship every single day. And I will always be your biggest fan.”
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Fans were quick to praise Barty for her kind words.
“Two beautiful women. Thank you for everything you do,” one wrote.
“Inspiration right there.”
“Fantastic women amazing ambassadors so proud of you all and your achievements- congratulations,” commented another.
“Such amazing women in tennis & also life. So humble of their wonderful achievements on the court – a few other players could learn a lot from them. So incredibly happy in their wins but also so gracious in their defeats, thank you for representing our country you have been an absolute pleasure to watch.”
Barty’s kind words come as the former World No.1 prepares for her eagerly awaited sporting comeback, but it’s not on the familiar courts that fans have come to associate with the tennis sensation.
Instead, Barty is trading her tennis racquet for golf clubs for the upcoming New Zealand Open.
Having attended the tournament as a spectator in 2023, Barty is now poised to take centre stage as the headliner of the Ambassador lineup. Scheduled to take place between February 29 and March 3, 2024, at Queenstown’s scenic Millbrook Resort, the New Zealand Open will witness Barty’s transition from the tennis court to the golf green.
Barty, who boasts an impressive golf handicap of 4, is no stranger to the world of golf. In 2022, she participated in the Icons Golf Series held in New Jersey, rubbing shoulders with international sporting legends such as Michael Phelps, Harry Kane, and Ricky Ponting.
This exposure to the elite echelons of golf has evidently fueled Barty’s passion for the sport, leading to her decision to take a swing at the New Zealand Open.
“The New Zealand Open is a fantastic event and I really enjoyed my time there last year supporting our friend Louis Dobbelaar,” Barty said.
“Having the opportunity to play in the pro-am event in 2024 is something I’m excited about, though I definitely need to start practicing! Golf has always been a passion of mine, I feel fortunate to be able to play in events like the New Zealand Open and experience an incredible course like Millbrook.”
However, even a tennis superstar like Barty isn’t immune to pre-game jitters. She acknowledged the “nerve-wracking” prospect of that first tee shot but expressed optimism that once the ball hits the fairway, the nerves should subside.
“I imagine that first tee shot in front of everyone will be quite nerve-wracking, but once the first ball hits the fairway, hopefully things should settle down. My aim is to go out there and enjoy every minute of it and hopefully make the weekend pro-am cut,” she said.