Barty targets first final as Australian Open down to last four28 January 2022
AFP, Melbourne :
World number one Ashleigh Barty will look to reach her first Australian Open final on Thursday but is wary of "exceptional athlete" Madison Keys blocking her path.
The first Grand Slam of the year hits the women's semi-final stage with top seed Barty trying to stay on course to be the first Australian woman to lift the trophy since 1978 against unseeded Keys.
Barty is renowned as one of the best tacticians in the game and has out-thought and out-played all her opponents so far while blasting through the top half of the draw without dropping a set and barely breaking sweat.
As well as "problem-solving" her way out of tricky moments, Barty has developed an exceptional all-court game which beaten quarter-final opponent Jessica Pegula said "picks you apart".
Keys, who made the last four in 2015 and lost to eventual champion Serena Williams, said it was important for her to "continue to focus on my side of the net".
But she also knows Barty's dangerous backhand slice must be blunted. "You can't do a ton off of her slice because it comes in so low," said Keys.
Two-time Grand Slam winner Barty is aiming to succeed Chris O'Neill, who was the last Australian to lift the women's singles trophy all of 44 years ago.
But the down-to-earth Australian is taking nothing for granted against a player who has already beaten 2020 champion Sofia Kenin, eighth seed Paula Badosa and fourth seed Barbora Krejcikova in her run to the final four.
"Maddie is an exceptional athlete, she has a great serve, great first strike off the return and off her first ball after her serve," she said.