Naomi Osaka will make her playing entry to the Olympic Games a day later than expected after her first-round tennis match was put back to Sunday.

Japan's big hope for gold will play China's Zheng Saisai in her opener at the Ariake Tennis Park.

The match was billed to be first on the centre court at 11:00 local time on Saturday, only for Games organisers to announce it has been moved back by a day.

The move came amid mounting expectation that Osaka would have a prominent role to play in Friday's opening ceremony, meaning she would have little time to rest between taking part in that event and playing Zheng.

Osaka abandoned her French Open campaign after one match, having been warned she risked expulsion for refusing to take part in news conferences during the tournament.

The reigning US Open and Australian Open champion, who has spoken of struggling with anxiety and depression, then elected to skip Wimbledon.

Ash Barty and home favourite Naomi Osaka start their respective quests for Olympic gold against Sara Sorribes Tormo and Zheng Saisai, while Novak Djokovic opens against Hugo Dellien.

In a stacked women's draw, world number one and Wimbledon champion Barty has a tough opening assignment and could face French Open finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 13th seed, as early as round three.

Spectators may not be in attendance at Tokyo venues for the Olympics but Japanese fans will be rooting for Osaka, who returns to action after a two-month hiatus with the four-time grand slam winner having spoken openly about mental health and anxiety issues.

Viktorija Golubic or Maria Camila Osorio Serrano would await Osaka if she can get through round one, but a dream final with Barty is no shoo-in given 15 of the world's top 20 on the WTA Tour are in action including each of the nine leading the race for the 2021 WTA Finals.

Aryna Sabalenka (3), Elina Svitolina (4), Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova (5), Iga Swiatek (6) and Garbine Muguruza are all featuring in Tokyo.

 

The men's side has been hit by a spate of withdrawals, with Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem among those not playing in the Japanese capital.

The main talking point surrounds whether the all-conquering Djokovic can continue his march towards a calendar Golden Slam – a sweep of all four majors and an Olympic gold in the same year.

Any notion of a free ride for the Serbian is wide of the mark, though. His side of the draw could see him come up against Andrey Rublev (5), Alexander Zverev (4) and Hubert Hurkacz (7), while Stefano Tsitsipas (3) – beaten by Djokovic in the French Open final – and Daniil Medvedev (2) are among the potential final opponents.

Andy Murray, gold medal winner in 2012 and 2016, faces Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime in a tricky first-round match.

Novak Djokovic has leapt from one bubble into another as he attempts to become the first man in tennis history to win all four grand slams and Olympic gold in the same year.

The only men to have won each of the singles majors across their careers, plus Olympic gold, are Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal, and now Djokovic aims to move to the brink of winning all five in his remarkable 2021 season.

Fresh from dominating at Wimbledon, and with the Australian and French Open titles already in the bag, Djokovic heads into the Tokyo Games as a red-hot favourite, seeking to set himself up to complete a historic campaign at the US Open.

Naomi Osaka will enter the Games with almost as much expectation behind her too, the reigning US Open and Australian Open champion eyeing glory for hosts Japan.

But tennis has thrown up a host of shock results in its short Olympic history. Here, Stats Perform looks at the sport's place in the Games.

 

WHO'S IN, WHO'S OUT, AND WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?

Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have all opted out of the Olympics.

Williams made her mind up prior to suffering a leg injury at Wimbledon, although she is already a member of the career Golden Slam club.

Federer reached his decision after revealing he also suffered a physical setback at the All England Club, and Nadal elected to take a two-month break after relinquishing his French Open title.

Don't expect to see them again at the Olympics, given Williams and Federer will be pushing 43 by Paris 2024, and Nadal will be 38. Federer won a doubles gold with Stan Wawrinka in 2008, but his singles peak was the silver medal he earned in 2012, Andy Murray crushing Swiss hopes in the final at Wimbledon.

Dominic Thiem, Bianca Andreescu, Nick Kyrgios, Simona Halep, Angelique Kerber, Victoria Azarenka and Denis Shapovalov are among other confirmed absentees, with fitness issues a factor for some, less so for others.

The COVID-19 crisis is a mitigating factor in why so many stars are staying away, and directly responsible in the case of some players, such as Britain's Johanna Konta and Dan Evans, who both tested positive recently.

But tennis was only fully restored to the Olympic programme in 1988, after being dropped post 1924, and if players are seen to be favouring the grand slams over the Games, that is not such a great look for the sport.

At a time when the International Olympic Committee has shown it is willing to shake up the sports on its programme, tennis could perhaps do with a headline-making Tokyo 2020.

Murray, the two-time defending men's champion, will target an improbable hat-trick. A hat-trick for the injury-hit former world number one would be a sensation, and Osaka landing gold in the women's tournament would surely be one of the great moments of the Games.

 

DJOKOVIC FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF GRAF

When Steffi Graf beat Gabriela Sabatini in the women's singles final at Seoul, it completed what we know now as the calendar 'Golden Slam'. She had already won the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, and the feat of the then 19-year-old West German has yet to be repeated.

Now Djokovic is three-fifths of the way to a similar clean sweep of the majors and the Olympics, with the US Open getting under way on August 30 in New York.

He teetered on not going to Tokyo, and perhaps he is to some extent endangering his chances at Flushing Meadows by spending more time travelling and enduring bubble life, while others rest up.

But Djokovic is a fiercely proud Serbian and could not resist a great chance of winning gold for his country. He landed bronze at the 2008 Games in Beijing but in 2012 he lost to Juan Martin del Potro in the bronze-medal match, and a cruel draw at Rio four years later saw him assigned Del Potro in the first round.

Top seed Djokovic bowed out in two tie-breaks to the powerful Argentinian, describing the outcome as "one of the toughest losses in my career".

There is no danger of a hat-trick of defeats to Del Potro, which may help Djokovic. Del Potro has been battling for two years to get back to fitness, undergoing four rounds of right knee surgery in a bid to get back on tour.

 

RAISING THE BAR AT THE OLYMPICS

How the Olympic village functions in Tokyo will be distinctly different to at previous Games, given the pandemic restrictions in place that could be a real buzzkill.

But in the past there have been countless cases of athletes becoming inspired by their surroundings and going on to perform above their usual level.

It can be a party village, and it can also be an eyebrow-raising experience as global superstars rub shoulders with competitors who might struggle for recognition in their home towns. More than anything, the shared team experience, fighting for a collective cause, can make a middling athlete believe they can be great.

Monica Puig was a massive tennis outsider in 2016 but the then world number 34 won the women's singles, stunning Angelique Kerber in the final after beating Petra Kvitova and Garbine Muguruza en route. That gave Puerto Rico their first ever Olympic gold medal.

In 1992, a tournament that featured the likes of Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker finished with a staggering final match-up of Marc Rosset versus Jordi Arrese, who in his home city of Barcelona was edged out 8-6 in the fifth set by the Swiss world number 43. Nobody would have predicted that head to head for gold.

Similarly, at Athens 2004, Nicolas Massu beat Mardy Fish in the gold medal match of a tournament that featured Federer, Andy Roddick, Carlos Moya and Tim Henman.

In the 1996 Atlanta Games, Lindsay Davenport, who had just turned 20, took inspiration from being the daughter of an Olympian, with dad Wink having played volleyball for the United States at Mexico City in 1968.

Davenport was beginning to make an impact on the WTA Tour but was only the ninth seed at the Olympics, yet she swept through the rounds before sinking Arantxa Sanchez Vicario 7-6 (10-8) 6-2 in the final.

"It's like one of those things I look back on and I'm like, 'Was that me?'," Davenport told The Tennis Podcast last year.

"It doesn't seem like it was real. I'd made the transition to the pro tour pretty well, but I liked hanging out between eight and 16 in the rankings. I was very insecure, unsure of what could I do. I liked doing well but I wasn't sure I wanted to do too well because it seemed really overwhelming to be one of those top players.

"Here I go at 20 years old to Atlanta for two or three weeks, in a setting that seemed so comfortable. Look at all these athletes, you have all different shapes and sizes, you have players that are really working hard but have so much in common and you get to hang out with them, breakfast, lunch, dinner in the village."

Davenport was a future world number one and three-time grand slam singles champion, but at this point in her career being an American at an Olympics in the United States was just a thrill.

"You're sharing this with your team-mates who are some of my best friends in Mary Joe Fernandez, Monica Seles. It was the best time ever," she said.

"By the time the tournament actually started we were like, 'Yeah, I'll go play my match and then we'll go back to the village and we'll hang out', and everything went so fast in those few weeks.

"And there I was left standing, winning at the end because I was so incredibly happy and excited with everything that was going on. I kind of forgot what was my job.

"When it became a reality of even just making the team in '96, it was so huge also for my family with having a second generation Olympian."

Wimbledon champion Ash Barty has "a great chance" of securing Olympic glory for Australia in Tokyo.

That is the view of former Wimbledon winner Pat Cash, though he warned there is plenty of scope for upsets in both the men's and women's singles.

Monica Puig claimed a surprise victory at Rio 2016 - then ranked 34th, she stunned Angelique Kerber in the final after beating Petra Kvitova and Garbine Muguruza en route to give Puerto Rico their first-ever gold medal.

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are two greats on the men's side who have not tasted Olympic glory, something the Serbian will look to put right this year as he pursues a Golden Slam.

Cash, though, would not be surprised to see the Olympics throw up another surprise result, even though he hopes to see compatriot Barty come out on top in the women's tournament.

He told Stats Perform: "The women's draw is very, very even. If you don't play well in one of those matches, you're out. 

"There's no such thing as an easy first round really in a tournament such as the Olympics, particularly the men’s side where it's best of three sets. So if you slip up, you're gone. 

"There's no chance of coming back from two sets to one down, because it's over. So that's trickier for somebody like Djokovic who can typically run people into the ground.

"Ash has got a great chance of winning the Olympics, but I think probably there's 30 girls who think they can do that as well and they're probably right. 

"We've seen some unusual results in the Olympics and shorter form tournaments like that, also on the men's side.

"It's very hard to say, but obviously, [Barty] is in great form and full of confidence - that goes a long way to winning a gold medal."

 

There have been a host of high-profile withdrawals from the tennis in Tokyo.

Rafael Nadal, Federer, Dominic Thiem, Matteo Berrettini, Serena Williams, Sofia Kenin, Simona Halep and Coco Gauff among a large list of top players who will be missing.

Some absences were unavoidable due to injuries or positive coronavirus cases but some players have opted to rest amid a hectic calendar, avoiding Japan's strict COVID-19 rules in the process.

Cash has mixed views on the subject but does feel playing at the Olympics should be seen as a rare and valuable opportunity.

"I think I think they would [look back fondly at winning a medal]," said Cash.

"It’s certainly one of the regrets in my career that I didn't play the Olympics [in 1988]. I had a niggling injury and decided to rest. 

"Looking back, I thought I could have won a medal, maybe even a gold medal. I would have probably given it a really good shot. 

"In my era it wasn't the pinnacle. I think Novak Djokovic has talked about that now, he said, ‘The main thing for me is winning slams, they're the pinnacle of our game’. 

"But to win a gold medal, it's pretty cool. You'll find that the players who do win a gold medal, if you tell the grandkids, 'I won a Wimbledon trophy' or 'I won a gold medal', they’ll go, 'Oh, where’s the gold medal?'

"Having said that, there's a lot of players who aren't playing the Olympics this year. Certainly for a few years, it was a novelty - I'm not sure if it's wearing off or not. 

"But to perform for your country, I think is an honour and we haven't had the opportunity to do that much in the last couple of years. 

"With the Davis Cup, the men's competition is really just a fading, unfortunately, dying competition, which not many people really care about any more.

"That's very, very sad, so the Olympics is often the best opportunity to represent your country."

 

Cash delved deeper into the dilemma players are likely to have faced.

"I wouldn't put any criticism on anybody for the personal choice after these last 18 months," he said. "It's their choice, everybody's got a different journey in this and it's part of their careers. 

"With COVID and all that sort of stuff that's going on - the bubbles - some of the stresses are unknown like being away from family and friends for months on end and not actually have any break. 

"Everybody's got their own different stories, some of them are injured, some were coming back from injury, some think 'I'm not going to make a trip to Japan' - with all the restrictions it's not going be fun. 

"It's not going to be a fun Games where you can go there and watch the other athletes. In Los Angeles [the 1984 Games] the highlight was actually to go and watch the track events, which I did.

"That's not going to happen, you're in a hotel, you're in the village or, you're gonna go straight to the tennis and back only to a certain area of the village, I think it's going to be locked down for tennis players only. 

"You may not be able to mingle with the other athletes. So I think a lot of the fun has been taken out of this. 

"But again, it's representing your country and trying to get trying to get a gold medal. So some players will go to great lengths to do that."

Naomi Osaka is less likely to claim Olympics glory on home soil in Tokyo because her lack of match practice will be a disadvantage, according to Pat Cash.

Japan's Osaka has not played since withdrawing from the French Open after one match at the end of May, having revealed she would skip press conferences as "people have no regard for athletes' mental health".

Prior to taking a break from the sport, four-time grand slam champion Osaka revealed she had suffered "long bouts of depression" since winning the US Open in 2018.

The 23-year-old said this month she wants "some level of privacy and empathy" from the media when she returns to action and but also discussed her excitement at playing in a "dream" Olympics.

Former Wimbledon champion Cash insists Osaka has the game to triumph but feels it is a tougher task now given her main opponents are coming off two grand slams in quick succession.

"Yeah, she said [she was taking] time out – it's hard to know if she's going to be match hardened," Cash said to Stats Perform.

"I think that's the thing about playing Wimbledon, the grass court season. Are you match toughened? 

"That goes a huge, huge way [to achieving success, and not having that] is putting yourself under pressure and especially under those circumstances if it's for a gold medal."

 

Cash feels the quality and depth of opposition in the women's draw is another obstacle in Osaka's bid for gold.

Wimbledon winner Ash Barty, beaten finalist Karolina Pliskova, former French Open champion Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka are scheduled to be among the highest-ranked competitors for Osaka at the Olympics.

Cash added: "There are a lot of good players too. Going back onto the hard court, I think that favours certain players who hit the ball hard like Sabalenka for instance.

"But there's 30 girls who really do think they can win a gold medal there and I think that's true. 

"So it's very hard to predict who will win, obviously Japan want Osaka to win, but with her being out, I think it's less likely than in a normal circumstance where she's playing matches. 

"But she's such a talent that she really could come out there and blast players away, so I wouldn't put it past her."

Yulia Putintseva was in devastating form as she crushed Anhelina Kalinina to win the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest, her second career singles title.

She needed just 70 minutes to thrash Kalinina 6-4 6-0 and seal a first WTA Tour triumph since 2019 when she was victorious in Nurnberg.

In fact, her semi-final appearance in Budapest was Putintseva's first since that success in Germany, and she rarely looked like passing up the chance for victory against her Ukrainian opponent.

Kalinina was as much her own worst enemy at times, with 34 unforced errors continuously handing the initiative to the ruthless Putintseva, who converted five of eight break points.

Two of those breaks came in the first three games of the match, and although Kalinina hit back initially, she could not sustain that form as Putintseva closed out the set.

The second set was far more one-sided, as Kalinina took just seven points across the six games, which were all won by Putintseva.

The Kazakh now turns her attention towards the Olympics.

Tamara Zidansek recovered from a set and early break down to beat Clara Burel and win her first WTA singles title at the Ladies Open Lausanne.

The Slovenian had lost her previous two finals, including at the Copa Colsanitas in April, but she lived up to her top-seed billing on Sunday by beating Burel 4-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-1.

Burel had eliminated second and fifth seeds Fiona Ferro and Caroline Garcia en route to her first final and made a fast start by breaking Zidansek twice in the first three games.

Former junior world number one Burel was in control at 4-0 up and saw the job through in the first set, despite Zidansek pulling it back to 5-4 at one point, with a backhand winner.

Zidansek was a break down in the second set when beginning her impressive comeback, which saw the French Open semi-finalist take four of the next five games.

But Burel continued to match her opponent as the second set went to a tie-break, with Zidansek recovering from 4-2 down to take it 7-5 and level up the contest.

World number 50 Zidansek took control from that point and eased to victory in the third set with three breaks, clinching her maiden title when Burel miscued a backhand.

 

Barbora Krejcikova won the Prague Open on Sunday with a comfortable win in straight sets against Tereza Martincova.

World number 13 and tournament second seed Krejcikova eased to a 6-2 6-0 win over her Czech compatriot Martincova in one hour and five minutes.

The win was the French Open champion Krejcikova's first on hard courts and came courtesy of 26 winners across the 14 games.

At 2-2 in the first set Krejcikova secured a break against the world number 78 and from that point never looked back.

Krejcikova has now chalked up an impressive 20 wins from her last 21 matches.

The 25-year-old's solitary loss in that time was in the fourth round of Wimbledon at the hands of eventual champion, and world number one, Ashleigh Barty.

 

Angelique Kerber will not be going for gold for Germany at the Tokyo Olympics, with the three-time grand slam winner withdrawing on Thursday.

One week on from losing to Ash Barty in the Wimbledon semi-finals, Kerber said it was "disappointing" to pull out of the Games.

The former Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open champion said in a statement: "The thought of participating at the Olympics has been a constant motivation for me over the past months to push further and keep believing in my goals.

"Representing Germany in London 2012 and Rio 2016 as part of the German team has always been one of my favourite memories of my career so far.

"This makes it even more disappointing for me to accept the fact that my body needs rest after the intense few weeks that lie behind me and that I have to recover first before returning to competition later this summer!

"Thank you for your support, as this has been a very difficult decision for me. Good luck to all my fellow German athletes in Tokyo #TeamDeutschland, I will miss you."

 

Kerber reached the Olympic final in Rio in 2016 but suffered a shock defeat in the title match to Monica Puig of Puerto Rico, having to settle for the silver medal.

Her absence this year means the field is further depleted, with Serena Williams, Bianca Andreescu, Simona Halep and Sofia Kenin among the high-profile WTA Tour stars who will be absent in Japan. Puig will also miss out after undergoing shoulder surgery.

The men's line-up has been similarly hit, with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem choosing not to play.

French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova made light work of qualifier Isabella Shinikova to start her Prague Open campaign with a win.

Following her triumph in Paris, Krejcikova made it to the round of 16 at Wimbledon only to lose to eventual champion Ash Barty.

Krejcikova will be representing the Czech Republic at the Tokyo Olympics, and is using this home tournament as a warm-up event.

The second seed defeated Shinikova 6-2 6-3 to tee up a second-round tie with Ysaline Bonaventure. With Petra Kvitova already out, Krejcikova will be hoping to seal a third singles title of her career.

Compatriot and fourth seed Marie Bouzkova did not fare well, however, as the fourth seed slumped 3-6 6-4 6-2 to world number 141 Storm Sanders.

Fellow Czechs Katerina Siniakova and Tereza Martincova did progress, beating Jodie Burrage and Samantha Murray Sharan respectively.

While Krejcikova will look to take advantage of a weakened field and prepare for the Olympics in ideal fashion, one player who will not be at the Games is Johanna Konta.

The British number one said on Tuesday she had withdrawn from Tokyo 2020 after testing positive for COVID-19 and seeing her tennis fitness suffer, having also had to pull out of Wimbledon. Konta, who is not in action this week, described the blow as "a heart-breaking reality".

At the Hungarian Grand Prix, third seed Bernarda Pera had to come from behind to beat Julia Grabher – ranked at 201 – 5-7 6-1 6-2.

Pera, who joins a fellow American seed, Danielle Collins, in round two, will next face Anhelina Kalinina.

Irina-Camelia Begu, a finalist in Budapest 10 years ago, will not be making a repeat trip to the title match, the fourth seed losing 6-3 6-4 on Tuesday to Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

Meanwhile, at the Lausanne Open, fourth seed Camila Giorgi scored a ruthless 6-2 6-0 win over Norway's Ulrikke Eikeri.

The rise of Ash Barty to become a double grand slam champion has been "phenomenal", with her mental strength key to that major glory.

That is the opinion of former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash, who watched with delight as Barty triumphed in the 2021 tournament at the All England Club with a three-set win over Karolina Pliskova in the final.

Barty sealed victory at Wimbledon just a month after withdrawing from the French Open with injury, becoming the first Australian woman to win the title since her idol Evonne Goolagong in 1980.

Cash and Lleyton Hewitt are the only Australians to have won the crown in the intervening period.

The 1987 winner Cash feels Barty – who won her first major at Roland Garros in 2019 – has the perfect blend of talent and fight which led to the country's latest success.

"I've got to know Ash and her team pretty well over the years," Cash told Stats Perform.

"I was coaching [CoCo Vandeweghe] who partnered with Ash to win her first grand slam title [in the doubles] at the US Open in 2016, so we did spend a lot of time together. 

"I saw her improving all the time, but for her to take this extra step in the last couple of years, it's been quite phenomenal. 

"The improvement in her game, her confidence and obviously [her play] under pressure, which is where it all matters, it's been exceptional. 

"Nothing's always perfect, of course, but she worked her way through the tournament after starting off in pretty average form – I think she would admit that herself.

"And she ended up playing fantastically well in the last two matches when it really counts."

Barty is calm, serious and focused – traits Cash thinks show up when she reaches pressure points in her matches.

"There's always moments if you're going to be a tennis player you’ve got to be prepared for really sticky, tricky moments if you're going to be one of the best players in the world," added Cash.

"They come up every set, every match you play out there. They're sticky moments and even on the practice courts when you're doing practice matches.

"But she is a great competitor. She's been a good Junior, been a Junior Wimbledon champion.

"She gives a lot of credit to her team, and I would too, but she's got she got to do the hard work out there and deal with the pressure and, and she did exceptionally well considering it all.

"In many ways, she just she is a quiet person and very happy to rest up and do her own thing, but she is incredibly well spoken now - very endearing where everybody loves her and loves her personality."

Cash felt world number one Barty achieved Wimbledon success at a time when it is more difficult than ever to come through a tough spell, battling injuries and struggling for match practice amid coronavirus restrictions.

"Injuries are always a concern for any player on tour," he said. "The tour is pretty relentless, especially these days where there's no real opportunity to have time off.

"You're sort of in bubbles, you can't go out and have a rest and get to a restaurant or have a few days away from the tour. 

"You're constantly going from one bubble to the next bubble and seeing the same people and they're your opponents! So it's not easy – there [are challenges for players with] mental wellbeing and physical issues and of course it is a highly competitive sport.

"So she's negotiated that quite well since these niggling injuries that happened.

"I think the French Open obviously was a bigger concern with the leg. She didn't play any pre-Wimbledon events and therefore, the first couple of rounds are always dangerous. 

"But she negotiated those quite well and bit by bit by bit built on her form. And by the end, she was moving incredibly well, getting around the court. 

"That was the real difference between the two players in the finals, that Ash was just a better mover on the grass courts."

Elena-Gabriela Ruse claimed the first WTA singles title of her career as she beat Andrea Petkovic in the final of the Hamburg European Open.

Appearing in her maiden tour final, the Romanian qualifier ran out a 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 victor in just over two hours on the German clay.

Petkovic, meanwhile, failed to end a six-year wait for a title spanning back to success at the Antwerp Diamond Games in February 2015.

Only a tie break could separate the two players in nip and tuck first set in Hamburg that saw each player break service once.

And it was 23-year-old Ruse who came out on top, with a second service win percentage of 60.9 to Petkovic's 46.7 across the entire set eventually telling.

The second set was more chaotic, with Petkovic breaking her opponent on two occasions as she attempted to find a way back into the match.

However, the German was broken three times herself, most crucially in the 10th and final game as Ruse claimed it 6-4 to win the WTA 250 event.

Ruse's first tour win is sure to provide a boost to her current WTA ranking of 198, 68 places below her opponent in Sunday's final.

An impressive run to the final also saw her beat top seed Dayana Yastremska and American Danielle Collins.

The wobbles of Wimbledon struck Karolina Pliskova and Ash Barty in a women's final that delivered devilish drama and a marvellously charismatic new champion.

Barty's big moment at the All England Club has finally arrived, the world number one making good on the aim she publicly set herself by landing the second grand slam of a career that could yield many more.

As she joyfully paraded the Venus Rosewater Dish around Centre Court, it hardly mattered that the 25-year-old had staggered across the winning line.

When she raced up to the players' box to hug coach Craig Tyzzer and boyfriend Garry Kissick, they were not asking why she had not got the job done in straight sets.

When Barty's thoughts turned to her hero Evonne Goolagong, and tears began to flow, all that mattered to the Queenslander was that she had achieved her tennis destiny.

But what a curious contest this was, a first women's Wimbledon singles final to go to a third set since 2012, yet it would take a real optimist – Barty, for instance – to define it as a classic.

At least it was a contest. That had been in doubt when Pliskova lost the opening 14 points. It was 4-0 in just 12 minutes, at which stage memories of the Czech's 6-0 6-0 drubbing by Iga Swiatek in May's Rome final came to mind.

Pliskova did not fire a single winner in the first six games. Barty surged a set and 3-1 ahead in 45 minutes, a 13th straight-sets women's final in the last 14 Wimbledon championships seemingly inevitable.

The pre-match favourite's nerve was holding, or so it seemed, but when Pliskova held serve to trail only 3-2 the players had split the last 10 games, and that suggested a pivot in the flow of the contest was still possible.

Rudyard Kipling's encouragement to keep your head while others might be losing theirs is engrained in Wimbledon tradition, yet doing so on the big stage is easier prescribed than achieved.

This title match was painfully short on consistent quality, with more unforced errors than winners overall (Barty: 30/29, Pliskova: 27/32) as the pressure of the occasion affected the two first-time finalists. Movie star Tom Cruise was in the crowd, and a plot twist was coming.

A chant of "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie" went up at 5-5 in the second set, and Pliskova went on to drop serve from 40-love, missing a straightforward enough backhand volley at the net when she had the chance to close out the game.

Serving for the title, Barty played her worst tennis of the match, and when Pliskova powered through the tie-break those still awake Down Under must have been suddenly fearing the worst.

Serving first in the third set, Barty took a look down the other end and must have been thinking: "What are you still doing here?"

But Barty swiftly established a break, Pliskova volleying lamentably into the net from close range, and this time the Aussie nerve held.

She fired an ace to bring up a first match point and the title was hers when Pliskova drove a backhand into the net, her 32nd unforced error of the match.

Having held serve in 57 of her 61 service games up to the final, Pliskova was broken six times.

Barty won the girls' Wimbledon tournament in 2011 and 10 years later has achieved a rare double by adding the women's title, joining Ann Jones, Martina Hingis and Amelie Mauresmo as the only players to do so in the Open Era.

She has joined Margaret Court and Goolagong in becoming a women's champion for Australia at the All England Club, and Barty holds the latter in the highest regard.

They share an indigenous background, and 50 years after Goolagong landed the first of her two Wimbledon titles, Barty did just enough to fend off Pliskova and add her own name to the board of champions.

Barty called it "an exceptional match right from the start", and that verdict can probably be put down to the adrenaline of being a newly crowned champion.

She also spoke of having managed precious little sleep ahead of the match, which might explain some of the erratic side of her performance.

And then the BBC's Sue Barker asked her about Goolagong.

"I hope I made Evonne proud," Barty said, the first tears beginning to stream.

Barty has left home to pursue this dream, having chosen to spend almost all of 2020 back in Greater Springfield, near Brisbane, away from the world's worst COVID-19 crises.

Her family have remained in Australia, and Barty has made the trip worth it with this triumph.

"I know they're at home watching. I miss them, I love them," Barty said. "I can't wait to get home to them in a few months' time and really celebrate."

She suggested celebrations in her bubble would be "low key". The Barty party will have to wait.

An emotional Ash Barty said she hoped she had done Evonne Goolagong Cawley after realising her dream of winning Wimbledon with a battling defeat of Karolina Pliskova.

The world number one became the first Australian woman to be crowned champion at the All England Club since her mentor Goolagong Cawley 41 years ago with a 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 victory.

Barty won the opening 14 points of the match as she handled the nerves better than eighth seed Pliskova on Saturday.

Pliskova fought back from a break down twice to win the second set, but the top seed regrouped to claim a second grand slam title two years after her first at the French Open.

The Queensland native is only the fourth junior Wimbledon champion to go on and win the women's title and her triumph came 50 years after Goolagong Cawley's maiden success at SW19.

An emotional Barty said in her on-court interview: "This is incredible. I have to start with Kaja [Pliskova]. Congratulations on an incredible tournament to you and your team. I love testing myself against you and I'm sure we'll have many many matches.

"I want to thank everyone in this stadium. You've made my dream so special, thank you very much.

"My team is incredible and they've been with me every step of the way, and for them to be able to travel with me and essentially be away from home for eight or nine months.

"Craig [her coach Tyzzer] is our captain. He is exceptional at what he does and I love him to death.

"It took me a long time to verbalise, to dare to dream it and say it. I didn't sleep a lot last night, I was thinking of all the what-ifs. I hope I made Evonne proud."

It was a second defeat in a major final for former world number one Pliskova, who was also beaten in the 2016 US Open championship match.

World number one Ash Barty became the first Australian woman to win Wimbledon for 41 years by beating Karolina Pliskova in a tense battle on Centre Court.

The top seed realised her dream of being crowned champion at the All England Club for the first time in a rollercoaster 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 victory.

Pliskova warmed to the task after making a nightmare start in a clash between two first-time finalists at SW19, but Barty was not to be denied her second grand slam title two years after her first at the French Open.

The Queenslander ended a wait for an Australian woman to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish that stretched back to 1980, when her mentor Evonne Goolagong Cawley won the title.

Pliskova fought back from a break down twice to win the second set, yet Barty regrouped to become only the fourth junior Wimbledon champion to go on and win the women's title.

Barty began with a commanding hold and followed that up with a break to love, sealed with a backhand winner down the line following a sumptuous lob.

A second Barty ace put her 3-0 up and although Pliskova finally won a first point at the 15th attempt, a tentative double fault left the favourite only two games away from wrapping up the first set.

Pliskova was finally on the board at 4-1 when the favourite was broken in an error-strewn game, but the Czech's usually venomous serve was not firing and Barty served out the set at the second attempt.

The 2016 US Open runner-up continued to look uncertain, with Barty taking advantage to go a break up at 2-1, but Pliskova hit back impressively, unleashing a thunderous forehand winner down the line and sealing a swift break back when Barty netted a forehand.

There was a raise of the left hand from Pliskova following a scorching backhand winner during a comfortable hold and although a poor backhand left her 6-5 down, Barty was unable to serve out the match.

Pliskova played with an increasing level of freedom, demonstrating her incredible power with deep, fearsome groundstrokes in a tie-break that ended with a double fault from Barty. 

The former world number one gifted the momentum back to Barty when she missed a simple volley at the net to trail 2-0 in the decider.

Pliskova showed flashes of brilliance as she made Barty, who withdrew from the French Open last month with a hip injury, work until the end, but served it out, sealing victory when her opponent netted a backhand.

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