AO 2022 semis: Barty chasing history

World No.1 looking to become the first Australian woman to make the final of her home since 1980

Ashleigh Barty Australian Open 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Reem Abulleil

Two Grand Slam champions, a former US Open finalist, and an ex-Australian Open semi-finalist, form a scintillating last-four line-up that will take centre stage at Melbourne Park on Thursday evening.

In a battle of variety versus power, world No.1 and two-time major winner Ashleigh Barty takes on 2017 US Open runner-up Madison Keys, while 2020 Roland-Garros champion Iga Swiatek will square off with fiery American Danielle Collins, who returns to the Australian Open semi-finals for the second time in four appearances.

Barty (AUS x1) v Keys (USA)

A champion on Parisian clay in 2019, as well as at Wimbledon last year, Barty is looking to become the first Australian woman to reach the final at her home Grand Slam since 1980.

The top seed has seemed unstoppable so far this fortnight, dropping a mere 17 games en route to the semis. Barty hasn’t dropped a set yet, and hasn’t lost more than four games per set in any of her opening five matches.

Spending a meagre total of five hours and four minutes on court on her way to the final four, Barty’s longest match this fortnight came against Naomi Osaka’s conqueror Amanda Anisimova and lasted just 74 minutes.

The Queenslander enters her semi-final against Keys carrying a 9-0 undefeated record for the season and has held serve in 38 of 39 service games contested this tournament.

“I'm just having fun, to be honest I'm having fun trying to problem solve out on the court, and each and every opponent has been different, each and every opponent has presented me with a different challenge and forced me to use another tool in my toolbox,” said Barty ahead of the semi-finals.

“Now we're in with a chance to go out there and play a semi-final at home, couldn't be more pumped and really, really excited.”

Keys, a former world No.6 who is down to 51 in the rankings on the back of a difficult 2021 campaign, is also undefeated this season and riding a career-best 10-match winning streak.

The American trails Barty 1-2 head-to-head but will pose a serious threat to the crafty top seed with her overwhelming power and an all-out attacking game.

Keys, whose first Grand Slam breakthrough came at the Australian Open when she reached the semis as a teenager back in 2015, owns a 3-6 record against top-five opponents at the majors, and is 9-20 overall when facing players in that ranking bracket.

She is trying to reach her second Slam final, and first since 2017.

“I honestly feel pretty neutral, to be completely honest with you,” said the 26-year-old Keys of her mindset this tournament.

“I have gone into every match thinking I can absolutely win any match that I'm out on the court. I will say it's been kind of nice to be the underdog for the first time in a long time.

“It's really just not even in my head about winning and losing. It's really just going out, competing, trying to do what the game plan is. If that's not working going to Plan B. The rest is kind of not even getting into my brain.””

Key stats: Barty has won her last six semi-finals on tour. Keys has struck 157 winners en route to the final four this fortnight, leads this Australian Open with a total of 35 aces.

Madison Keys, Ashleigh Barty, Roland-Garros quarter-finals 2019© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

Swiatek (POL x7) v Collins (USA x27)

Swiatek had to dig deep against Estonian big-hitter Kaia Kanepi before coming through her quarter-final on Wednesday in three sets. The three-hour duel was the longest match of Swiatek’s career.

Into the semis in Melbourne for the first time in her young career, the 20-year-old has been the epitome of consistency at the majors since she lifted the Coupe Suzanne-Lenglen in Paris in 2020, making the fourth round or better in her last six consecutive Grand Slams.

Swiatek is bidding to become the first Polish woman to reach the Australian Open final and takes a 1-0 head-to-head lead over Collins into their Thursday showdown, having beaten the American in their sole previous meeting last year during her title run in Adelaide.

The No.7 seed entered this Australian Open with an 8-24 career record in matches where she has dropped the opening set, but has rallied back from a set down in her last two clashes this week, showing great resolve in difficult situations.

“It's pretty new for me. Right now I have more belief even when I don't start the match well,” said Swiatek on Wednesday. “I'm proud of myself that I can – I'm still able to find solutions and actually think more on court on what to change, because before it wasn't that clear for me.”

Just nine months after having surgery for endometriosis, Collins is back playing her best tennis and with a shot at making her first Grand Slam final. Described by her quarter-final opponent Alize Cornet as a “lion” on the court, Collins has had a busy Australian Open, spending 13 hours and 18 minutes on court so far across singles and doubles.

“I think aside from surgery, I've gotten a lot physically stronger over the last couple of years. My strength and conditioning, my fitness, it's been one of the most important areas of my training and focuses,” said Collins after her straight-sets win over Cornet on Wednesday.

“I think that has transferred over to my tennis, the way that I'm able to play physically with my serving. I think my serving has gotten a lot stronger. I think my stamina on court has improved tremendously. I think just overall power and speed has improved.”

Key stats: Swiatek has saved 29/41 break points (71%) so far this tournament. Collins owns six top-10 wins in her career, only one of which has come at a major.