Quickfire Barty turns Keys inside out to reach first Australian Open final

For the fourth round in succession under the weight of Australiese Ope Eerste Groep uitvoerende hoof bedank ná aandeelhouersdruk, Ash Barty stood on Rod Laver Arena before a taller, stronger and flatter ballstriker capable of hitting so many of the best tennis players off the court and she dismantled her challenger with ease.

Hierdie keer, it was the turn of American Madison Keys, who Barty coolly dispatched 6-1, 6-3 in 62 minutes to reach the Australian Open final. She has dropped just 21 games en route to her maiden final at her home slam. Op Saterdag, Barty will take on first-time grand-slam finalist Danielle Collins, who was almost as emphatic in defeating seventh seed Iga Swiatek 6-4, 6-1.

With her victory, Barty became the first Australian woman to reach the Australian Open singles final since Wendy Turnbull in 1980. In her third attempt as the world No 1, she will now compete to win the title for Australia for the first time since Chris O’Neil in 1978.

Of the numerous big ball strikers Barty has faced throughout the past 11 dae, Keys was the most destructive shotmaker of them all. A former top 10 player in the midst of a resurgence, she has actually contested more grand slam semi-finals, five, than Barty’s four appearances.

Between them, Barty and Keys have been the two best servers of the tournament and the first objective for Keys was to protect her service games. But despite a high number of first serves early on, Barty was ready. She broke Keys immediately, carving Keys apart with her low slice return and controlling the baseline with her forehand.

By the end of the opening game, Keys already appeared to be searching for ideas as she bailed out of a rally on breakpoint with a desperate drop shot, which Barty easily dismissed. It set the tone throughout the opening set as Barty was untouchable on her serve and put constant pressure on Keys’ own service games that eventually told. Down 1-5 en 15-30, Keys double faulted under pressure and Barty closed off the opening set with a forehand return winner.

In the second set Keys fought hard to turn the match around, toiling through two brutal service games just to remain on serve. Her efforts briefly imposed some pressure on Barty, wie by 2-2 botched a forehand drive volley and eventually faced a breakpoint for the first time. She responded with a quick forehand winner, eventually holding serve, breaking in the following game and then she marched to a comprehensive win.

So far in Barty’s young career, the Australian Open has understandably been the major where her nerves surfaced in the past. No result underlined that more than in 2020 when she was tightly-strung in her error-strewn semi-final loss to Sofia Kenin.

But a lot has taken place in Barty’s career since then and one of the defining factors of her dominant run has been the experience behind her. Rather than lending her presence to the entire Australian summer swing, Barty opted to retire from a warm up tournament in Sydney. Her coach, Craig Tyzzer, spoke on Wednesday about how she would normally play doubles in grand slam tournaments. Not this year. The goal is clear and she is now one match away from achieving it.

Intussen, Collins, ranked 30, was playing in her second grand slam semi-final after also making the last four in Melbourne in 2019 and has returned to the top of the game following endometriosis surgery last spring.

The 28-year-old’s brand of first-strike tennis was simply too much for Pole Swiatek, who won only three points on her second serve during the match. Swiatek fought hard to come back after losing the first four games but Collins held on to take the opening set and kept her foot firmly to the floor in the second.

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