Ashleigh Barty and Danielle Collins to meet in Australian Open final

MELBOURNE, Australia — It’s all about choice, this game of tennis and life. Down-the-line or crosscourt? Tear or chip? Stay home and ...

MELBOURNE, Australia — It’s all about choice, this game of tennis and life.

Down-the-line or crosscourt? Tear or chip? Stay home and rebuild your strength and well-being? Or hit the road in search of more points and glory?

The coronavirus pandemic that has disrupted old patterns and created new issues has made some of the picks more complicated, but Ashleigh Barty is on a hot streak, as anyone who played her in this Australian Open can confirm.

Madison Keys was the last to pull away and miss as Barty continued to deliver throws and tactical changes that Keys couldn’t handle. Barty won the first set of their semi-final on Thursday night in 26 minutes and took the match in just over an hour, 6-1, 6-3.

“As Australians we are exceptionally spoiled to be a Grand Slam nation and we can play at home and in our garden,” Barty said. “I’m just happy to be able to play my best tennis here. I appreciate it. I did well before and now we have a chance to play for a title.

Barty regularly uses “we” when discussing her tennis, wishing to join her support team. But it is she who makes history as the first Australian since Wendy Turnbull in 1980 to reach the women’s singles final at the Australian Open. Win on Saturday night and she would be the first Australian singles champion here in 44 years.

But first, she must overcome women’s tennis’ latest surprise at a major tournament: American hitter Danielle Collins, who beat Poland’s Iga Swiatek, 6-4, 6-1, in the second semifinal. feminine.

Barty deserves to be the favorite because of her No. 1 ranking and precision under pressure over the past 11 days. But Collins, the 27th seed and semi-finalist here in 2019, is one of the fiercest competitors in the game and has served and returned particularly well in Melbourne.

She won 86% of the points against Swiatek’s second serve on Thursday.

“She loves getting in front of you and really loves getting into it,” Barty said of Collins.

Barty leads their head-to-head series, 3-1, but Collins won her last match in straight sets in Adelaide, Australia last year and twice pushed her to three sets in defeat. One of Barty’s wins over Collins came in the second round of the 2019 French Open, where Barty won his first Grand Slam singles title. Barty also beat Americans Jessica Pegula, Amanda Anisimova and Keys in this tournament, just as she beat them in this Australian Open.

Foreshadowing? Collins hopes not.

“We’ve had some amazing battles over the years,” Collins said. “Playing against the world No. 1 player in her home country, I think it’s going to be really spectacular.” Although Collins will be the equivalent of the visiting team, she said she would appreciate the atmosphere after playing in empty stadiums during the pandemic.

“I’m so grateful to be able to see faces in the crowd again and see people getting excited, seeing positive energy, hearing people’s voices,” she said. “It’s something that I really thrive on, whether I have a full crowd going for me or the opposite or somewhere in the middle. I really love the energy. I think that’s what all professional athletes play for.

Collins, 28, is a two-time NCAA singles champion from the University of Virginia who turned pro later than most of her rivals on the WTA Tour. She’s scrappy and demonstrative, but also has end-point power, throwing herself into her shots and generating some serious racquet head speed. She reached a tournament high of 32 return winners.

“I was prepared for her to play an aggressive game, but I think it was the fastest ball I’ve ever played against in a game,” said Swiatek, 20, who won the French Open 2020. “In training maybe I reached the same speed, but in matches it’s different because the players don’t want to take so many risks. But it seemed to him that it wasn’t It wasn’t even risky, because she was playing with control.

Collins has come back convincingly in the last nine months following surgery for endometriosis. Since July, she is 32-7 in singles and will move up to 10th place in the rankings on Monday, becoming the highest ranked American, after players like Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Venus and Serena Williams .

“To be on par with these women is a real honor,” Collins said in an interview Thursday night. “Being the highest ranked woman means so much to me. Not too long ago, just a few years ago, I started with a ranking of zero.

Collins, from a family of modest means in Florida, said she lacked the resources to travel and compete as much as she wanted as a junior. But she had an extraordinary dynamism. “An absolute singles warrior,” said Geoff McDonald, Vanderbilt’s women’s tennis coach, who has coached against her varsity teams.

Although she is seeded in Australia, Collins does not have a clothing contract, although she says she likes to choose her own outfits for a change. She also doesn’t have a traveling coach and does her own scouting and game preparation work, sifting through analytics from her data service. Collins fought back in Melbourne with tough three-set wins over Clara Tauson in the third round and Elise Mertens in the fourth round.

Barty hasn’t come close to dropping a set yet, and when Keys met Barty at net after Thursday’s rout, she was smiling as if to say, “You’re in the zone, Ash.” Enjoy it.”

“I mean, you have a game plan in your head, but she executes everything so well,” Keys said in his post-game press conference.

Barty’s variety is her strength, and as the match with Keys developed, she rarely gave the powerful American the same type of shot for long, mixing two-handed backhands with one-handed slices. , off-speed angled forehands with bolts down the line. .

“I think everything’s gotten a little bit better,” Keys said. “I think she got a little more specific on her serve. I think his forehand also does a really good job of mixing up rhythms and rotations. It feels like you can’t really get into a rhythm from that forehand side. Then from his backhand, I mean, it all comes down to your laces on the baseline.

Keys, who was on a 10-game winning streak, looked more resigned than sullen.

Tennis may not matter as much to Australia as it did in the days of Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong Cawley. But a victory for Barty in Australia would certainly be a cultural event. The 25-year-old from Brisbane is particularly popular character here with her down-to-earth personality and her deep roots in the land: she is partly of aboriginal origin.

A tennis prodigy, she took a 17-month hiatus from the sport, starting in 2014, as she battled the pressure of early success. But she opted to return in 2016 and has now been No. 1 for a total of 112 weeks and won her second major singles title at Last year’s Wimbledon, winning in a turbulent final against Karolina Pliskova.

There have been no edgy matches so far in Melbourne, where she can become the first Australian to win the singles title since Chris O’Neil in 1978.

O’Neil was unranked and ranked outside the top 100, one of the greatest surprise Grand Slam champions in tennis’ long history. Barty is the highest ranked player and the target for her country every time she plays. But she made another smart choice to cut short her season in 2021 and return home to Australia to recuperate after the US Open, where she was. upset in round three.

She started the 2022 season fresh, focused and devastating on target. She is 10-0 and has lost just 21 games in six matches in Melbourne, striking the right balance between finesse and power.

Next challenge: his first singles final at the Australian Open in prime-time Australian against Collins, a combative veteran who keep the party to a minimum after crushing Swiatek.

When Collins was asked what came to mind upon hearing the words “Danielle Collins Grand Slam Finalist,” she thought for almost 10 seconds, then slowly replied, “The next task at hand. Try to win the next match.

Could be a good one.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Ashleigh Barty and Danielle Collins to meet in Australian Open final
Ashleigh Barty and Danielle Collins to meet in Australian Open final
Newsrust - US Top News
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