WILL EVANS’ daily preview serves up Australian Open tips for a massive semi-final showdown between home favourite Ash Barty and in-form American Madison Keys.
History: Played 3: Barty 2 V Keys 1
Last meeting: French Open, 2019 (QF): Barty d Keys 6-3 7-5
Final Thoughts: Ash Barty has already created history in a sparkling 10 days, becoming the first Aussie to make multiple Australian Open semi-finals since its move to Melbourne Park in 1988. But only milestone really counts: breaking the tournament’s 44-year homegrown champion drought.
The world No.1 is in the form of her life, tearing her first five opponents apart. There has been no sign of the weight of expectation affecting her game.
Barty lost a total of just five games in disposing of Lesia Tsurenko and Lucia Bronzetti. She thrashed 30th seed Camila Giorgi 6-2 6-3 and put away the Osaka-slaying Amanda Anisimova 6-4 6-3.
The 25-year-old Queenslander then completely dismantled 21st seed Jessica Pegula in a 6-2 6-0 quarter-final rout. Incredibly, she has dropped just one game on serve.
But despite being unseeded, Madison Keys appears likely to provide Barty with her stiffest test in Melbourne to date.
The world No.51 (a ranking that is set to skyrocket back towards her career-best top-10 standing) has dropped only one set in the tournament. Her scalps include former champion and 11th seed Sofia Kenin, eighth seed Paula Badosa, and current French Open champ and fourth seed Barbora Krejcikova.
Keys’ serve has been on song, firing down 11 aces in her comprehensive win over Krejcikova.
The 26-year-old was a teenaged semi-final bolter at the 2015 Australian Open. Since then she has made it to the US Open final in 2017 and the French and US Open semis in 2018.
Barty boasts a 2-1 lead in her head-to-head with Keys. Keys won their first-round encounter at the 2017 French Open in straight sets. But Barty prevailed in a 2019 Fed Cup tie before brushing the American aside in the quarter-finals on her way to winning that year’s French Open.
Barty was upset at this state in the 2020 Australian Open by Kenin. She also lost her nerve during a quarter-final loss to Karolina Muchova in the quarters last year. But the two-time Grand Slam winner has taken her game to another level to kick off 2022 – she’s the best women’s player on the planet right now by some margin. Keys’ best won’t be enough in this clash of the big-hitters.