Ash Barty has opened up on the extent of an injury that threatened to ruin her Wimbledon dream after the World No.1 became the first Aussie woman in 41 years to book a place in the final at the All England Club.
Buoyant after her superb 6-3 7-6 (7-3) defeat of Angelique Kerber in the semi-final on Thursday, Barty, back to her physical sharpest, admitted that it had actually been touch-and-go whether she'd compete at the All England Club after the injury she suffered at the French Open.
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Barty had to withdraw midway through her second round clash at Roland Garros, revealing afterwards that the hip complaint she was experiencing left even her physiotherapist a little baffled.
The 25-year-old said she was struggling so bad with the left hip problem just a month ago, and never believed she'd be in the position she finds herself in now.
On a high after reaching her first final at the All England Club, Barty revealed for the first time just how close she came to missing out on Wimbledon because of the injury.
"I mean, we had 23 or 24 days in between finishing up in Paris and my first round here," reflected Barty, after playing what she felt was one of the highest-quality matches of her career.
"To be honest, it was going to be touch-and-go. Everything had to be spot on to give myself a chance to play pain-free and to play knowing that I could trust my body.
"To know that my body's held up over a fortnight off a different preparation, and just being able to accept that I could trust everything that we've done to the best of our ability, is incredible."
Barty paid tribute to her team led by coach Craig Tyzzer, who orchestrated her rehabilitation.
"If you told me a month ago, we'd be sitting in this position, I really wouldn't have thought that we would even get close," she said.
"I think it's pretty special what we've been able to do the last month."
Australia's first women's finalist since her heroine Evonne Goolagong Cawley 41 years ago - Barty admitted she was never sure during her career that this historic breakthrough would ever materialise.
Barty realises a Wimbledon dream
Asked when she first believed she could make a Wimbledon final, Barty conceded: "I wasn't sure if it would ever happen, honestly.
"I think you have to keep putting yourself in the position. Wimbledon for me has been an amazing place of learning.
"Ten years ago, I came here for the first time as a junior and learned a lot in that week (when she won the girls' title).
"Probably 2018 (when she lost to Daria Kastkina), 2019 (beaten by Alison Riske) was some of my toughest weeks playing.
"To come away with losses in those two tournaments, I learned a hell of a lot from those two times.
"A lot of the time your greatest growth comes from your darkest times. I think that's why this tournament has been so important to me.
"I've learned so much with all my experiences - the good, bad, and everything in between."
It had, she told the Centre Court crowd who've been warming to her by the day, been an incredible journey.
"I've had ups and downs, and everything in between, and I wouldn't change one day or one moment, or one route we've taken on my path," she said.
"It's been unique, it's been incredible, it's been tough, and I wouldn't change one thing about it.
"I'm enjoying every single day that we get to come out here and do what I love, and being able to on the final Saturday here at Wimbledon is gonna be just the best experience ever."
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