Australian Open WTA Semifinal Preview: Aussie to Roll On (Jan. 27)
Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images. Pictured: Ashleigh Barty
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Ashleigh Barty vs. Madison Keys
|Time | TV||3:30 a.m. ET | ESPN|
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Ashleigh Barty is having an Australian Open to remember. The World No. 1 has reached the Australian Open semifinals without losing a set. In fact, Barty has only lost 17 games in the five matches she’s played in Melbourne!
In Barty’s quarterfinal showdown with Jessica Pegula, the Aussie easily won 6-2, 6-0. Barty completely dominated all aspects of the match. She won 81% of her first serves and wasn’t broken, facing only one break point all match. Overall, Barty has saved 11 of 12 break points this tournament.
On the Pegula serve, the American only won 57% of her first serves and 31% of her second serves, getting broken five times in the process. So far during this Australian Open, only Barty’s third round opponent, Camila Giorgi, has won more than 40% of her second serves when facing the World No. 1.
Can Anyone Stop Ash Barty?
Barty’s red-hot form so far at the Australian Open shouldn’t come as shock. The Aussie started her season at the Adelaide 1 event, where she beat Elena Rybakina 6-3, 6-2 in the final.
Interestingly enough, Barty lost her first set of the tournament to Coco Gauff and was one point away from being down a double-break in the second set. Yet, Barty stayed calm, stuck to her game plan, and turned the match around. And she didn’t look back, winning every match in straight sets for the rest of the tournament, which included wins over Sofia Kenin, Iga Swiatek and Rybakina.
When looking at both Adelaide and the Australian Open, Barty is on a 18-set winning streak.
Madison Keys Also in Great Form
Madison Keys is also having an incredible start to the season. Like Barty, she started the 2022 season with a warmup event victory, beating Alison Riske 6-1, 6-2 in the final to win Adelaide 2.
Keys was able to sustain her momentum at the Australian Open, as she has dropped only one set all tournament. After crushing Paula Badosa in the Round of 16, Keys took down Barbora Krejcikova 6-3, 6-2 to reach the semifinals.
Keys’ first serve was firing during the match. The American won 77% of her service points and was only broken once. Keys’ raw power on the first serve is one of the best in women’s tennis.
On return, Keys held Krejcikova to 49% first serves won and 48% second serves won. In Melbourne, Keys has held every opponent but Sofia Kenin to under 60% first serves won and under 50% second serves won.
But perhaps the most impressive part of Keys’ early-season surge is how well she is controlling her powerful groundstrokes. Keys is known for having a high level of easy power, but she’s reined her shots in a bit. She isn’t racking up the unforced errors like she did in the past.
In fact, over the course of the tournament so far, Keys has 157 winners compared to 147 unforced errors. For a player who plays as aggressively and hits with as much power as she does, these are extremely impressive numbers.
I think it’s safe to say that Barty and Keys are the two most in-form players in women’s tennis right now. But, in terms of the matchup itself, Barty has a clear edge.
There’s no better player in the world right now in terms of absorbing pace and throwing off power players than Barty. Whether it be Amanda Anisimova and Pegula at the Australian Open, or Swiatek and Rybakina in Adelaide, Barty has done an excellent job neutralizing powerful serves and groundstrokes.
Barty will also keep the ball out of Keys’ strike zone with her backhand slice, taking Keys out of her comfort zone. And, despite Keys’ recent improvements controlling her groundstrokes, Barty is still the much more solid player from the baseline and has the variety to keep the American off-balance.
When looking at Elo ratings, while they haven’t been updated for the past week, it should be no surprise that Barty is first in both overall and hard-court Elo by a wide margin. Keys is 30th overall in Elo and 28th on hard courts. Interestingly enough, her hard-court Elo is below both Pegula and Anisimova’s hard-court Elo’s, and Barty didn’t have trouble with either player.
While there will be times in the match when Keys overwhelms Barty with pace, Barty’s game is on another level compared to the rest of women’s tennis right now. She’s hitting her spots on serve, putting tons of pressure on return, and has no major weaknesses from the baseline.
Barty would have covered a 4.5-game spread in all nine of her matches so far this year, At this point, I would feel foolish doing anything but trusting Barty to cover this spread.
Pick: Barty -4.5 games (-120 at PointsBet)