Formidable Ashleigh Barty sweeps Madison Keys aside to reach Australian Open final

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Formidable Ashleigh Barty sweeps Madison Keys aside to reach Australian Open final - GETTY IMAGES
Formidable Ashleigh Barty sweeps Madison Keys aside to reach Australian Open final - GETTY IMAGES
  • Impressive Barty eases through semi-final in 63 minutes

  • Australian on course to be first home singles winner since 1978

  • World No 1 has still not lost a set so far in tournament

Ashleigh Barty looked all but invincible as she became the first Australian woman to reach the final in Melbourne since Wendy Turnbull in 1980.

Barty swept past Madison Keys in just 63 minutes, using her patented backhand slice to neutralise Keys’ aggressive ball-striking. It was another masterclass in a tournament where Barty has dropped just 21 games in six rounds. This is the most clinical tennis we have seen since Serena Williams was at her peak.

The Williams comparison might seem strange in light of the enormous contrast between the two women’s games. An American powerhouse on one side, an Australian touch player on the other. But the end result is similar.

Barty is unbeaten in 10 matches this year, while her record since the start of last year’s Wimbledon stands at 24 wins from 26 outings.

By capturing that Wimbledon crown, Barty ended a 41-year wait since Evonne Goolagong became the last Australian woman to lift the title in SW19. Were she to prevail here on Saturday, she would end an even longer drought.

The last Australian to triumph in their own home grand slam was Chris O’Neil in 1978. (In 1980, Turnbull lost to Czechoslovakia’s Hana Mandlikova.)

Mentally, Barty now looks a different player to the one who unexpectedly lost to Karolina Muchova in the quarter-final here last year, having come into that match with the aura of a champion in waiting.

The Wimbledon title, coming on the heels of her previous major – the 2019 French Open – has delivered a new level of confidence.

You could hear it in the words of her long-serving coach. Craig Tyzzer, when he talked before this match about the way Barty’s slice destabilises her oppoents.

“When you see who Ash has to play, you see them out there practising someone hitting a slice backhand to them,” Tyzzer said.

“It's probably a bit late the day before to try to get that right. If you haven't practised it enough now, you're probably not going to get that right.”

Ashleigh Barty has lost just 21 games throughout the tournament - GETTY IMAGES
Ashleigh Barty has lost just 21 games throughout the tournament - GETTY IMAGES

On Thursday night, Keys looked desperate to avoid the Barty slice, opting to serve to the forehand wing throughout this match. Her own game is all about size – a huge serve, huge groundstrokes and a huge wingspan – but she never settled after being broken in the opening game of the match.

The statistics show that Keys coughed up 24 unforced errors while striking just eight winners – a terrible ratio of three to one, while Barty’s numbers were roughly equal.

One might describe it as a disastrous performance, but then Barty has a knack for making her opponents play poorly. The way she uses her slice to neutralise their attacks, before following up with a deep and searching forehand, can be reminiscent of Roger Federer.

After the match, Keys agreed that Barty has opened up a gap on the rest of the chasing field. “This is easily the best I think she's ever been playing,” Keys said. “She seems very focused, but she's playing very within herself. I think the rest of us are watching it thinking, ‘Wow, this is incredible.’ But when you watch her, she seems completely in control of all of it.”

As for Barty, she cast her mind back to the first time that she had attended the Australian Open, probably in 2007 or 2008, as a member of a junior training camp. “I would have only been 11 or 12 years old,” she said. “To see how professional it was and to see everyone going about their business was really eye-opening.

“I think being able to get a taste of that kind of lit the flame,” Barty added. “You wonder what you can achieve. You wonder what you can do.”

On Saturday, when she faces the USA’s Danielle Collins in the final, that question may well be answered.

Ashleigh Barty vs Madison Keys - as it happened

10:16 AM

We will have live coverage

Of the second women's semi-final between Iga Swiatek and Danielle Collins for you here.

The players are warming up so that match will be under way imminently.

A full report of Ashleigh Barty's crushing win will be at the top of this blog for you shortly too.

Thanks for reading.

10:08 AM

Can anyone stop the Barty Party?

10:05 AM

Barty reacts...

I love this tournament, I love coming here and playing in Australia and as an Aussie we are spoiled that we are a grand slam nation and get to play at home. I get the chance to play for a title, it’s unreal. This is Brisbane weather, it was humid.

I tried to keep Maddy under the pump as she can take it away from you. She’s a great person, looks you in the eye, a lot of the girls love her.

09:59 AM

History maker

09:55 AM

The winning moment

09:48 AM

Barty* 6-1, 6-3 Keys (*denotes server)

Outstanding point by Keys, this time getting Barty on the move and finishing with a cross court backhand winner, 0-15. Keys return into the net, 15-15. Keys forehand error, 30-15.

Big wide serve by Barty is unreturned, two match points.

GAME. SET. MATCH BARTY. Barty completes a dominant win with a forehand winner. That was a masterclass from the Australian today.

09:45 AM

Barty 6-1, 5-3 Keys* (*denotes server)

Keys forehand winner to start the game. And another makes it 0-30. Wow. Huge running forehand down the line by Keys, 30-30.

A bit of fight from Keys as she crushes another cross court forehand winner, And she holds after an error from Barty.

09:41 AM

Barty* 6-1, 5-2 Keys (*denotes server)

Fifth Barty ace to open the game. Too many errors from Keys allowing Barty to move clear and a fourth love hold puts her a game away from the final.

09:40 AM

Barty 6-1, 4-2 Keys* (*denotes server)

Keys misses with a forehand winner down the line, 15-30. Wild forehand by Keys, she's furious with herself. Two break points.

Barty backhand error, 30-40. And another makes it deuce. Relief for Keys.

Smart angled return by Barty catches out Keys and opens the court for a forehand winner down the line. Second break point.

Keys goes on the attack and decides to come to the net but that's just what Barty wanted and she passes her opponent with a forehand to break.

09:33 AM

Barty* 6-1, 3-2 Keys (*denotes server)

A bit of tightness from Barty as she inexplicably nets a drive forehand, 15-30. But she responds by going on the attack and hitting a forehand winner down the line, 30-30. Big point coming up.

Deep return by Keys and Barty's backhand flies wide. Break point. Superb first serve sets up the point for Barty and she finishes off with an overhead winner, deuce.

A bit of a wobble by Keys but she holds firm to hold with consecutive first serves.

09:29 AM

Barty 6-1, 2-2 Keys* (*denotes server)

Every service game is a big one fore Key as she tries to keep herself in the match and her first serve comes to the fore in this game.

An 11th winner for Barty as she puts away a forehand return to make it 40-30. Keys nets a backhand, deuce.

A few more errors creeping into Barty's game and it is letting Keys off the hook a little bit.

Huge backhand winner down the line by Keys off a Barty backhand slice. Her best shot of the match.

09:22 AM

Barty* 6-1, 2-1 Keys (*denotes server)

Barty continues to be unplayable on serve and a fourth ace makes it 40-0. And a third love hold is completed when Keys pushes a forehand wide.

09:20 AM

Barty 6-1, 1-1 Keys* (*denotes server)

More errors from the racket of Keys sees her slip to 0-30. But a backhand winner down the line and unreturned first serve allows her to level.

Good defense by Keys to get a backhand back in play and Barty nets a drop volley.

And Barty completes a great recovery with a big wide serve and Barty's return flies long. Could be an important hold.

09:18 AM

Second Set: Barty* 6-1, 1-0 Keys (*denotes server)

Barty cruises through another service game. Keys has no answers at the moment.

09:13 AM

Barty 6-1 Keys* (*denotes server)

Backhand slice continues to trouble Keys and she nets a forehand to fall to 15-30. Keys double fault, that was nervy. Two set points for Barty.

Keys takes the pace off her serve and she's duly punished with a forehand return winner down the line by Barty.

Irresistible tennis by Barty.

09:10 AM

Barty* 5-1 Keys (*denotes server)

Barty hasn't dropped a point on serve yet but Keys finally forces an error to move to 30-15. Barty goes for too much on the forehand side, 30-30.

Oh dear, chance for Keys but she nets a backhand return off a Barty second serve. She had to get that in play.

Barty backhand error makes it deuce. A bit luck for Keys as her deep backhand slice catches out Barty to earn a break point.

Barty aces to cancel that threat. Barty then goes on the attack and gets another forehand error from Keys.

Back-to-back first serves by Barty are unreturned by Keys and she holds.

09:02 AM

Barty 4-1 Keys* (*denotes server)

Vital that Keys serves well today to give her a starting point in rallies. But Barty is an excellent returner and not giving away any free points.

Great length on a chipped return from Barty and Keys nets a backhand. Break point.

Great depth again from Barty and Keys shanks a forehand out to conceded the double break. It's all unravelling a bit for Keys.

08:59 AM

Barty* 3-1 Keys (*denotes server)

Barty is maneuvering the ball around the court expertly, getting Keys on the run and the frustration is already clear.

Barty holds to love with a forehand winner. Class.

08:56 AM

Barty 2-1 Keys* (*denotes server)

Better from Keys as hits a forehand winner to move 40-15 and she gets on the scoreboard when Barty goes long with a backhand.

That should hopefully settle her.

08:54 AM

Barty* 2-0 Keys (*denotes server)

Barty opens the game with an ace. Forehand long from Keys, 30-0. Brilliant second serve down the T by Barty catches out Keys and the American nets the return.

Barty consolidates.

08:51 AM

First set: Ashleigh Barty 1-0 Madison Keys* (*denotes server)

Perfect start by Keys as she finds a first serve and hits a forehand winner down the line.

In what could be a theme of the match, Barty gets Keys on the run and draws the error, 30-15. Keys forehand long, 30-30. Extremely quick start to the match from both players. Keys seems to struggle when Barty pushes her wide to the forehand side.

Both players committing errors but Barty earns a break point after targeting Keys forehand. And she breaks when Keys hits a drop shot that Barty easily reaches and flicks a forehand winner into the open court.

08:40 AM

Here we go...

...the players walk out to court and of course the home favourite Barty gets a huge reception from the crowd.

Keys wins the toss and opts to serve first.

08:36 AM

Multi-sport talented Barty

08:32 AM

Keys getting locked in

08:00 AM

Good morning and welcome to Telegraph Sport's live coverage of the Australian Open

Madison Keys faces the biggest test of her resurgence when she meets Ash Barty in the Australian Open semi-finals today, as the American aims to end the top seed's bid to delight home fans by winning an elusive title.

Keys, who reached the last-four in 2015, will play in her first Grand Slam semi-final in four years having emerged from the "dark pit of despair" she had fallen into due to the pressure she put on herself to perform at the highest level.

"I know I'm going to feel nervous... excited. I know all of those feelings are going to be there," Keys said of her previous semi-final appearances at majors. "But it's also a completely different situation, time and person.

"I think you take the experience that you have from those moments and you try to apply it, but you also know that it's going to be a completely different challenge."

Keys can expect a tough time against a ruthless Barty, who is chasing a third Grand Slam title to add to her French Open and Wimbledon crowns, and also become the first local player since Chris O'Neil in 1978 to triumph at Melbourne Park.

Barty is expecting a testing battle against Keys, who played superbly earlier on Tuesday when defeating reigning French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova 6-3 6-2.

She has won two of her three outings against Keys, with the most recent in a quarter-final at Roland Garros in 2019, the year she claimed the title.

The 25-year-old is delighted that the former U.S. Open finalist, who has suffered mental health and injury issues, has regained her best form.

"It is so nice to have Maddy back playing her best tennis. She deserves to be at the top of our game," Barty said.

The dual major winner was heavily favoured when edged by eventual champion Sofia Kenin in a semi-final of the Australian Open two years ago. She feels like a superior player now.

"I have grown as a person. I have grown as a player. I feel like I am a more complete player," Barty said.

"I have a couple of more years of experience under my belt in handling different experiences and problem solving out on the court."

Reuters