Andy Murray and Ash Barty pay tribute to each other
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Rafael Nadal was pipped to the post by home hero Ash Barty in the Australian Open ratings battle. The Spaniard made history as the first male singles player to win a record 21st Grand Slam title when he came from two sets down to defeat Daniil Medvedev on Sunday. Meanwhile, Barty ended a 44-year wait for an Australian singles champion at the tournament when she beat Danielle Collins on Saturday.
Nadal and Barty were crowned the Australian Open singles champions this weekend, each making their own piece of history with their title wins.
World No 1 Barty came into the tournament as the favourite but had never been past the semi-final stage.
But this year she finally made it out of the last four with a 6-4 6-1 victory over Madison Keys in the semi-final to become the first Aussie women’s singles finalist in 42 years.
The French Open and Wimbledon champion faced Danielle Collins in the championship match, in what was the American’s maiden Grand Slam final.
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The top seed got off to a fast start, taking the opening set 6-3, but found herself 1-5 down in the second set as Collins – who suffers with endometriosis and had a tumour the size of a tennis ball removed from her ovary less than a year ago – served for the set twice.
Barty, who had not dropped a set all tournament, mounted an extraordinary comeback as she reeled off four games in a row to level things at 5-5, eventually taking it to a tiebreak and winning 6-3 7-6(2) to become the first Australian woman to lift the trophy in Melbourne since Chris O’Neil in 1978.
In contrast, Nadal’s sixth Australian Open finals appearance came as something of a surprise in what was just his second tournament after a five-month injury layoff.
Having only won the title in Melbourne Park once before, 13 years ago, the 35-year-old found himself in a position to find for his second Aussie Open trophy and a record 21st Grand Slam title.
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He went two sets down to highest seed and tournament favourite Daniil Medvedev, staring down the barrel of defeat when going 0-40 down on his serve at 2-3 in the third, before mounting his own incredible comeback to find himself 5-4 up in the fifth set, serving for the title.
The trophy suddenly seemed to slip away from him as the world No 2 broke to level things at 5-5 but Nadal won the next two games to make history as the first man to win a record 21st Major title.
While it was the Spaniard who wrote his name in the record books and achieved something never seen in men’s tennis before, it’s Barty who won the battle of the ratings on the Australian Open’s host broadcaster Down Under, Channel 9.
The Queenslander’s home victory was watched by an average of 3.577 million viewers in Australia, with a national peak audience of 4.261 million accordind to OzTAM figures.
And a whopping 3.867 million tuned in for the trophy presentation, with a peak of 4.506 million watching Barty life the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.
The views eclipsed Nadal’s epic five-set comeback over Medvedev, which pulled in an average national audience of 2.1 million viewers.
Only three men’s singles finals in Australian Open history pulled in more viewers than Barty’s feat on Saturday night.
Fellow Aussie Lleyton Hewitt pulled in 5.7 million viewers for his 2005 finals loss to Marat Safin.
While Nadal’s incredible title win on return from injury at 35-years-old couldn’t outdo Barty’s victory, Federer’s own comeback aged 35 did.
The 2017 final between Federer and Nadal, both playing after long injury layoffs in 2016, and Federer’s 2006 final against Marcos Baghdatis are the only other finals to surpass Barty’s viewing figures since OzTAM figures began
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