Australian Open women’s final: Ash Barty vs. Danielle Collins

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Ash Barty ended a long drought by reaching the Australian Open final with a 6-1, 6-3 win over American Madison Keys.

She still has one to go — Saturday’s final against another American, Danielle Collins, who upset Poland’s Iga Swiatek in the later semifinal 6-4, 6-1.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

Barty is the first Australian woman to reach the singles final of her home Grand Slam tournament since Wendy Turnbull in 1980. No Australian has won the title since Chris O’Neil in 1978.

The top-ranked Barty conceded only 17 games on her way to the semifinals and continued her strong form by beating Keys, the 2017 U.S. Open runner-up.

Barty hit 20 winners to only eight for Keys. She converted four of her six break-point opportunities, and saved the only two break points she faced on her serve. In six matches so far a the tournament, she has dropped one service game.

Barty has won major titles on grass at Wimbledon and on clay at the French Open, and is one win away from adding another on a hard court.

“It’s unreal. Honestly, it’s just incredible,” Barty said in her on-court TV interview. “I love coming out here and playing in Australia.

“As an Aussie, we’re exceptionally spoiled we get to play in our own back yard. Now we have a chance to play for a title. It’s unreal.”

Keys was playing in the Australian Open semifinals for the first time since 2015, when she lost to eventual champion Serena Williams. That year was the last time a No. 1-seeded player won the women’s title at Melbourne Park.

Keys was on a career-best 10-match winning streak ahead of the semifinals, including a run to the title in a tune-up tournament in Adelaide — her first WTA title since 2019 — and a first-round win over 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin. Her full tally of 11 match wins this month already equals her total for 2021, when she dropped into the 50s in the rankings. She’s expected to return to the top 30 next week.

The stadium was limited to two-thirds capacity, with the state government allowing an increase from the earlier 50% restriction on ticketed courts late this week as part of the easing of rules in place for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most of the support, obviously, was for Barty. Chants of “Let’s go Barty, Let’s go!” — combined with coordinated clapping — were regular at each changeover, with pockets of fans wearing the yellow shirt synonymous with the Australian player scattered around arena. Rod Laver, the aging Australian tennis great, was in the stadium himself.

While Barty is potentially one win away from giving the host nation a title, there’s a guaranteed win in another competition.

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Australian Open women’s final: Ash Barty vs. Danielle Collins originally appeared on NBCSports.com