Barty overcomes weight of history to reach first Australian Open final


arely can a player have spent less time on court in their quest for a Grand Slam title than Ash Barty.

In only her second Australian Open semi-final, the big serve of Madison Keys – along with Barty’s the most potent in Melbourne to date – and her obdurate groundstrokes were meant to provide the biggest test to date.

But Keys fell like all the rest, the match over in an hour and two minutes, the scoreline 6-1 6-3 in Barty’s favour.

The Australian has barely put a foot wrong in six rounds at Albert Park, conceding just 21 games and losing serve on only one occasion. But history and the weight of expectation can have an unsettling effect.

In her last semi-final appearance in Melbourne against Sofia Kenin in 2020, the enormity of the occasion got to her. This time, that could barely have been further from the truth as Keys proved the one to struggle in the spotlight of Rod Laver Arena.

Between now and Saturday’s final, there is no escaping the potential for history making. After all, Barty is reminded in each post-match interview what is at stake.

For now, she is the first Australian into a singles final of their home Grand Slam since 1980, come the weekend the target is to succeed Chris O’Neil as a first home winner in 44 years.

“It’s just unreal,” said Barty after another masterclass in starving her opponent of any rhythm or comfort the other side of the net. “As an Aussie, we are spoiled that we are a Grand Slam nation, and now we have a chance to play for a title. I love this tournament and I love playing in Australia.”

The world No1 has made secret of the fact that this is the title she aspires to the most and this year the focus has shifted to her foregoing the women’s doubles where she has habitually doubled up.

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