Australian Open 2022: The supersonic Ashleigh Barty | sports


Madison Keys, the American gunfighter who was progressing in Melbourne in the form of an arrow, falls (6-1 and 6-3) and resigns herself: “It’s incredible, it does everything well. He doesn’t let you into the game, it’s like he has everything under control”. The impression is shared by the victim of the previous round, her compatriot Jessica Pegula: “Against her you feel truly useless.” In parallel, the figures back it up: towards the final, the time invested by Ashleigh Barty on the court is ridiculous (6h 06m) and the concession to the rivals (21 games in six games), the same. And between demonstrations, praise, skyrocketing audience peaks (an average close to two million people in the last rounds) and the unanimous acknowledgment of the circuit, of those who understand the most, Australia celebrates: after 42 years, the country will have again to a female finalist in her big tennis tournament.

Now yes, all roads lead to Barty and only the American Danielle Collins, relentless in the other semifinal, against Iga Swiatek (6-4 and 6-1), can break the dream of the Australian people and that of the number one. After three unsuccessful assaults in the last three editions, when she had already taken the circuit by the handle, the oceanic player is just one step away from reaching the summit at home and ending the drought that has lasted since 1978, 44 years, when Chris O’Neil became champion in Melbourne by defeating American Betsy Nagelsen in straight sets in the final.

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Since then, only one Australian finalist –Wendy Turnbull, inferior to the Czech Hana Mandlikova in the final battle of 1980– and five unsuccessful attempts in the men’s territory: John Marks (that same course, against Guillermo Vilas), Kim Warwick (1980 , beaten by Bryan Teacher), twice by Pat Cash (1987 and 1988, against Stefan Edberg and Mats Wilander respectively) and once by Lleyton Hewitt (in 2005, against the Russian Marat Safin). The last man to achieve it was Mark Edmondson, who in 1976 beat his compatriot John Newcombe.

“I will follow the same routines as always. I will try to rest and disconnect”, replied the applicant (25 years old) in the meeting with the journalists. “This time I adapted better to the game and tried to make sure Keys didn’t feel comfortable at any time. I think that, in general terms, I have achieved it”, expanded Barty when asked what differences he found compared to the semifinal two years ago, when he left his country with honey on his lips after losing against the odds against Sofia Kenin, that later would raise the trophy.

Mary Pierce’s record

On this occasion, the boss of the circuit did not fail. She melted Keys through another display of strength, summed up in her authority with the service (she only gave up four points with first serves and six with seconds) and an absolute command of the situation, handcuffing the American and denying her the two break options she had against wind and tide was manufactured. A gale so far, Keys was reduced to a breath. But it is not an exception.

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On his way to Saturday’s clash (9.30, Eurosport), Barty has been burning stations at breakneck speed. Lesia Tsurenko lasted 54 minutes, Lucia Bronzetti 52, Camila Giorgi stretched the stopwatch to 1h 01 and Amanda Anisimova was the one who demanded the most, 1h 14m; later, both Pegula (1:03 am) and Keys (1:02 am) were two snacks and in just six hours, the number one has completed a practically flawless run. Anisimova was the only one capable of scratching her four games in one set and snatching her serve, losing only once.

Danielle Collins returns a backhand during the match against Swiatek.
Danielle Collins returns a backhand during the match against Swiatek.PAUL CROCK (AFP)

In this way, Barty has signed one of the best records, although she has not been able to reach the German Steffi Graf, who lost 16 in the 1989 edition, nor Monica Seles, with 20 in the 1993 edition. absolute is in possession of the French Mary Pierce: 10 games at Roland Garros in 1994.

After Keys (36) and despite being far from the highest, the tennis player from Ipswich (1.66) is the one with the most aces (35) has billed and the one that has retained the most points (83%) with the first service. However, in the fight for the title he will have a bone in front of him. Anonymous for the general public, but clearly progressing, Collins, 28 years old and who next Monday will already be among the top ten in the world, has been sending out good signs for a couple of years. He was a semifinalist in 2019 and the following season he advanced to the quarterfinals in Paris; last summer, he celebrated in Palermo and San José, and now he shows off grit, dynamism and a magnificent backhand crosscourt in Melbourne.

Trained at the University of Virginia, since she reached the high levels of Roland Garros she has offered a balance of 32 wins and 7 losses, finding the highest point of her tennis these days in Australia. Destination to the final has dropped AnaKonjuh (58th in the world), Clara Tauson (39th), Elise Mertens (26th), Alizé Cornet (61st) and Swiatek (9th), having missed 47 games in a demanding path, against opponents hard to crack Making her debut in a high-flying final, the North American has fought since her adolescence against rheumatoid arthritis that has caused her multiple injuries and stoppages.

“As a child I saw Venus and Serena, and also Hingis and Kournikova, so this is surreal for me,” explained the tennis player from St. Petersburg (Florida), a knife to the rest: she heads the list of revenues (90 points, 17 more than the second Swiatek) when returning second serves. “I really admire his variety of play,” he said of Barty, with whom he has clashed four times. The Australian prevailed in three, although the record on cement is 1-1. In terms of surfaces, Barty (2019 Roland Garros and 2021 Wimbledon champion) also shines, as she will attend on Saturday among the group of players who have reached grand finals on clay, grass and rapid in the last two decades, along with Serena Williams , Venus, María Sharapova, Justine Henin, Simona Halep or Garbiñe Muguruza.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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