|Dates: 17-30 January Venue: Melbourne Park|
|Coverage: Daily radio commentaries on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, BBC Sport website and app, with selected live text commentaries online; TV highlights from middle Saturday.|
Ashleigh Barty became the first home player to reach the Australian Open women’s singles final in 42 years as she beat Madison Keys in straight sets on a jubilant Rod Laver Arena.
Wimbledon champion Barty, 25, won 6-1 6-3 against the unseeded American.
Now the top seed is one win away from becoming the first Australian – man or woman – to win the singles since Christine O’Neil won the title in 1978.
Barty will face American 27th seed Danielle Collins in Saturday’s final.
Collins, 28, beat seventh seed Iga Swiatek 6-4 6-1 to reach her first Grand Slam final, less than a year after she had surgery for endometriosis.
Channelling her passion into power, Collins settled more quickly than 2020 French Open champion Swiatek and raced into a 4-0 lead with a double break.
The 20-year-old from Poland reduced the deficit to 5-4 after breaks of serve in three straight games, only for Collins to reset and take the opener on her fifth set point.
Collins continued to pick apart Swiatek’s game in the next set with her aggressive returning, particularly punishing her second serve, as she moved into another 4-0 lead.
The level of Collins’ intensity remained high, cracking another clean winner – her 27th of the evening – to set up a first match point and taking advantage on the second when a deep return forced Swiatek long.
“It feels amazing to reach my first Grand Slam final. It has been such a journey, it doesn’t happen overnight,” said Collins.
“Along with all the health concerns, I couldn’t be happier.”
Reaching first Melbourne final is unreal – Barty
While Collins showed aggression and clinical execution to dominate Swiatek, she looks likely to face a tough task stopping Barty.
The world number one reached the semi-finals at Melbourne Park in 2020, with defeats in the quarter-finals coming either side.
This year, Barty has so far looked unstoppable and unburdened by the weight of Australian expectation.
“It’s just unreal – as an Aussie we are spoiled that we are a Grand Slam nation, and now we have a chance to play for a title,” she said.
The 25-year-old Queenslander has been in supreme form in 2022, having now won all 10 of her singles matches this year.
After beating three top-20 players to win the Adelaide International title, she has continued that dominance in Melbourne.
Strong serving has been the bedrock of her success, with her returning game – characterised by a tricky backhand slice – also proving difficult to unpick.
Barty has not dropped a set in her opening six matches, conceding just 21 games on her way to the final.
Key, a former US Open runner-up looking to reach her second major final, was nervous from the start and never looked like troubling Barty.
A deep forehand from the Australian brought a break point in the first game of the match and another cross-court winner, punishing a drop-shot from Keys, enabled her to take it.
Barty backed that up with successive holds to love and then broke again for 4-1, with her returning game proving difficult for Keys to cope with.
A double fault brought up a set point after 26 minutes, which Barty converted with a crisp forehand winner down the line.
Barty saved a break point at 2-2 in the second set when she put away a smash – moments after dumping one into the net – and the Australian promptly broke again for 4-2.
The passionate crowd – including 11-time major champion Laver himself – roared as Barty waited to serve on match point, with the volume increasing further when she put away a forehand to win in one hour two minutes.
“I just tried to run and make as many balls as I could, point by point and just try to do the right things every time,” she said.