Ash Barty was the crowd favorite at Melbourne Park long before she ended a 42-year drought by reaching the Australian Open final.
Danielle Collins said it’ll be “spectacular” to take on the women’s No. 1-ranked player in the final of her home Grand Slam event on Saturday.
The 28-year-old American got a little taste of what to expect in her first Grand Slam final as she left the court on Thursday following her 6-4, 6-1 semifinal win over seventh-seeded Iga Swiatek.
Ash Barty beat Madison Keys 6-1, 6-3 in 62 minutes in the first of the semifinals, and Collins wrapped up the night by beating 2020 French Open champion Swiatek in 78 minutes.
Predictably, there were boos after Collins finished her on-court TV interview. Not too loud or long, but an indication of things to come nonetheless.
Ash Barty Is The First Australian Woman In The Finals
Barty won her first major title on clay at Roland Garros in 2019 and her second on the grass at Wimbledon last year. Now that she’s become the first Australian woman into the final here since Wendy Turnbull in 1980, Barty has a good chance to claim her first on a hard court. She’s only too aware, though, that no Australian woman since Chris O’Neil in 1978 has won the singles title here.
“As an Aussie, we’re exceptionally spoiled we get to play in our own backyard,” the 25-year-old Barty said. “Now we have a chance to play for a title. It’s unreal.”
Ash Barty lost to eventual champion Sofia Kenin in 2020 the last time she reached the Australian Open semifinals. She said she’s learned from that kind of pressure as much as winning other Grand Slams.
“Absolutely embrace it,” she said of the home expectations. “You have to. It’s fun. It’s brilliant to be playing in the business end of your home Slam. I’m not gonna lie about that — it’s amazing.”
Barty hit 20 winners to only eight for Keys, who was playing in the Australian Open semifinals for the first time since 2015. She lost that year to eventual champion Serena Williams, who was the last No. 1 seed to win the women’s title at Melbourne Park.