You have to go 44 years to find the last Aussie ladies champion at the AO. That was when it was still a grass court tournament. So you can imagine the huge weight of expectation on Ash Barty’s shoulders as she takes on USA’s Madison Keys in the semis in Melbourne. Keys has punched above her weight so far in Australia claiming notable scalps , Paula Padosa and last year’s French Open winner Barbora Krecjikova in the quarters. The best baseliner in the game today, Barty has been in incredible form in the tournament not dropping a set, dropping just 17 games along the way. Aussie smiles would go wider after the first set. Barty crushed Keys on all departments, particularly in the longer rally. Keys was better off not taking on Barty from the baseline and rather keeping points short, as in going for more aces. She instead played it safe. Although she served a commendable 71% on first serve, they were not especially powerful. Check out first game adv Barty, maybe I should just say Ash is a very good returner. Maddy never recovered from losing that opening game on her racquet. Now watch Ash’s serve at 1-0 first point. One of 5 aces for the match, with power and bang on the T. Impressive despite serving at “just” 61% on first serve. In winning the first set 6-1 Barty never gave Keys a look in on her racquet, except maybe for the sixth game. Before leaving to go to set two, watch 4-1 deuce to show you that Keys going toe to toe with Barty from the baseline was a losing cause. She ended up committing the unforced error , for me out of sheer disbelief that Barty was able to stay in the point for that long.
If Maddy was to have a chance at winning, she needed to get the first break at all cost. With Barty serving first in set two, Keys hardly went close. The impressive serving from the Aussie shone through losing it for the loss on one point. On of the few points in which the American got the better of Ash from the baseline was at 1-0(30-0), even then Barty had managed to stay in the point despite Keys hitting an almost perfect backhand down the line. All in all a much better second set from Keys. It was just not consistent enough. She cracked on serve again at 3-2. At advantage Barty she tried varying the play by coming to the net but her volley at the end of the point was not strong enough. Keys forced Barty to serve her way to the final which is a plus. Maddy’s two handed backhand is her best shot, pity it hardly featured. Check out 5-3 Barty first point. No denying Barty her first Australian Open final appearance though, not with the way she has been of form. She awaits the winner of Collins and Swiatek on Saturday.