Thanks for visiting the Australian Open Website. We can see you’re using Internet Explorer, and wanted to let you know that we will no longer be supporting this browser in future. We’d recommend you download a new browser if you'd like to continue keeping up with all of the latest tennis news!

Barty's hour of power edges her closer to the holy grail

  • Ravi Ubha

The crowd at Rod Laver Arena enjoyed a rendition of ‘Girl on Fire' prior to the semifinals at the Australian Open.

It perfectly describes the play of Ash Barty, who became the first Australian woman to reach the final at her home major since 1980 by defeating a resurgent Madison Keys 6-1 6-3.

MORE: Women's singles results AO 2022

Keys, too, had been on fire, tallying a career-best winning streak of 10 after a difficult 2021 that saw her ranking fall outside the top 50.

But Barty is on another level at the moment – perhaps the top floor of the Eiffel Tower.


The world No.1 increased her own winning streak to 10, the last nine in straight sets. Opponents have grabbed a total of 21 games off the Queensland native this fortnight.

"It’s unreal. It's just incredible," Barty said on court after emulating Wendy Turnbull's achievement of 42 years ago. "I love this tournament and love competing out here and playing in Australia. 

"As an Aussie, we are exceptionally spoilt that we're a Grand Slam nation, we get to play at home and in our backyard.

"I'm just happy that I get to play my best tennis here. I enjoy it, I've done well before and now we have a chance to play for a title."

Speaking of Paris, Barty landed the first of her two Grand Slam titles by beating Keys, Amanda Anisimova and Jessica Pegula as part of her 2019 sojourn. 

Barty has beaten all three this fortnight. An omen?

A fourth straight American might await Barty in Saturday's final, if Danielle Collins tops Iga Swiatek.

Magnanimous in defeat: Keys congratulates her great friend

An indication of Keys' night came in the opening game. Leading 30-0, Barty thwarted three game points before taking advantage of a first break point.

The serve, slice and forehand all make up Barty's vast weaponry yet so does her movement. She scurried to a Keys drop shot, then ripped a forehand cross-court.

A hefty second serve – an ace if not for a good stretch from the 2017 US Open finalist – helped Barty consolidate for 2-0.

A vintage kick serve out wide, forehand winner down the line upped matters to 3-1.

Keys desperately needed to stay close and a little luck wouldn't have hurt.

But at 30-all in the next game, Barty's floated slice – not the venomous type she so often hits that cuts through the court – on a second-serve return barely dropped in. 

There was no luck involved on the next point when Barty curled a forehand for 4-1.

She was cruising against a Keys who had knocked off the likes of 2020 winner Sofia Kenin – a victor over Barty in the semifinals that year – eighth seed Paula Badosa and reigning French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova.

Still one of the hardest hitters around, Keys found the right balance between aggression and not going for too much, which has been an issue throughout her stellar career.

Only once this Australian Open had Keys hit more unforced errors than winners in a match.

On Thursday, pressed by Barty, though, she committed 24 unforced errors, coupled with eight winners.

The double-break deficit perhaps freed Keys while Barty – very momentarily – waned.

Barty bypassed a break point with an ace to lead 5-1 and sent a forehand return down the line to seal the opener.

Keys' defending, not that big hitting, aided in escaping from 0-30 at 0-1 in the second. A fist pump ensued from the 26-year-old after holding at deuce for 2-2.

Not breaking through may have unsettled Barty.

She miscued on a drive volley after stretching the World No.51 and suddenly faced a break point. But a fine forehand approach close to the net – made more difficult given the slight momentum change – allowed Barty to later finish at the net. 

Anisimova is the only player to break Barty so far this AO 22.

Barty: can she become the first Aussie AO champ since 1978?

Keys, maybe and understandably, dwelled on her opportunity, realistically her lone one of the contest. Barty took advantage for 4-2 after Keys decided to approach from deep in the court.

"Conditions were really different tonight," said Barty, born in Ipswich, slightly south-west of Brisbane. "It was humid. This is Brisbane weather. The ball was a little bit slower, heavier off the strings. 

"I just tried to run and adapt and make as many balls as I could, keep Maddy under the pump on her serve because she's got the ability to take it away from you really quickly without you realising what's happening."

Friends, both smiled at the net after Barty caressed a forehand on match point for winner number 20 on the night, mixed with a mere 13 unforced errors.

Plenty of smiles featured at Rod Laver Arena after another scintillating performance from Barty, now one win away from becoming the first Australian woman to win the title since Chris O'Neil in 1978.

Barty vows to keep smiling, too, despite heading into the final as the considerable favourite – that comes with pressure – no matter who she faces. 

"We keep doing our thing, our routines, come out here on Saturday and enjoy it, massive smile on my face, and see what happens," she said in her usual endearing, low-key fashion.