World No 1 Ashleigh Barty will be the favourite when she takes on 27th seed Danielle Collins in the women’s singles final of the 2022 Australia Open at the Rod Laver Arena on Saturday.
Barty has so far lived up to her top billing in Melbourne, and when she defeated American Madison Keys in straight sets in the semi-finals she continued her red-hot form. The two-time Grand Slam champion once again used her backhand slice to devastating effect as she stormed into the final having not dropped a single set throughout the tournament.
Just as impressive was Collins in her semi-final against seventh seed Iga Swiatek. The American continued to strike the ball brutally and broke down Swiatek’s serve with her powerful returns. She, too, won her semi-final in straight sets and has lost just two sets so far in the tournament.
The final between Barty and Collins promises to be a cracker. Barty leads the head-to-head 3-1 and this is Collins’s best ever result at a Major, but the result could go either way as both players’ level has been head and shoulders above the rest in the women’s singles draw this year.
Paths to the final
1st rd: bt Lesia Tsurenko (UKR) 6-0, 6-1
2nd rd: bt Lucia Bronzetti (ITA) 6-1, 6-1
3rd rd: bt Camila Giorgi (ITA x30) 6-2, 6-3
4th rd: bt Amanda Anisimova (USA) 6-4, 6-3
Quarter-final: bt Jessica Pegula (USA x21) 6-2, 6-0
Semi-final: bt Madison Keys (USA) 6-1, 6-3
1st rd: bt Caroline Dolehide (USA) 6-1, 6-3
2nd rd: bt Ana Konjuh (CRO) 6-4, 6-3
3rd rd: bt Clara Tauson (DEN) 4-6, 6-4, 7-5
4th rd: bt Elise Mertens (BEL x19) 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
Quarter-final: bt Alize Cornet (FRA) 7-5, 6-1
Semi-final: bt Iga Swiatek (POL x7) 6-4, 6-1
Barty vs Collins H2H
|2021||R16||Adelaide 500||Hard||Danielle Collins||6-3 6-4|
|2020||SF||Adelaide International||Hard||Ashleigh Barty||3-6 6-1 7-6(5)|
|2019||R64||French Open||Clay||Ashleigh Barty||7-5 6-1|
|2019||R32||Madrid Masters||Clay||Ashleigh Barty||6-1 1-6 6-1|
Barty will be making her third Slam final appearance, having won both times previously – French Open 2019 and Wimbledon 2021. She is the first Australian woman into the decider of her home Grand Slam since Wendy Turnbull in 1980 and is aiming to become the first singles Aussie winner since Chris O’Neil in 1978.
The 25-year-old comes into the clash on a 10-match win streak after taking the title at Adelaide this month – her 14th career crown starting in 2017 at Wuhan and Birmingham. Three of them, including Wimbledon, came in 2021.
She has been world No 1 for 112 consecutive weeks, having made her Grand Slam debut at the Australian Open in 2012.
Collins on the other hand, will be making her first Grand Slam final appearance, with her previous best being a run to the Australian Open last four in 2019. Before that she had never won a match at a Major in five previous Slams. She also made the last eight at Roland Garros in 2020.
The 28-year-old withdrew from Charleston last year to have surgery for endometriosis. On her return she won her first ever WTA titles at San Jose and Palermo. Hardcourts are the favourite surface for a player who only turned professional aged 22 after an illustrious college career.
World ranking: 1
Prize money: $21,665,851
Career titles: 14
Grand Slam titles: 2 (French Open 2019, Wimbledon 2021)
Australian Open best: Final (2022)
Coach: Craig Tyzzer
World ranking: 30
Prize money: $3,750,895
Career titles: 2
Grand Slam titles: 0
Australian Open best: Final (2022)
Coach: No full-time coach
Barty broke through for her first Grand Slam triumph at the French Open in 2019, became Australia’s first women’s world No 1 since Evonne Goolagong-Cawley and finally won a cherished Wimbledon crown last year.
So dominant has she been that she ended 2021 as the top-ranked player for a third consecutive year, joining Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Serena Williams and Chris Evert as the only women to achieve the feat.
Barty should have returned to Paris to defend her Roland Garros title in 2020, but she pulled out over coronavirus fears and picked up her golf clubs instead.
But a resurgent Collins said she is ready to tackle top seed and clear favourite Ashleigh Barty.
Collins was in “the zone” to take apart Swiatek and make her first Grand Slam final. She knows if she can find the sweet spot again on Saturday, she has a chance.
The big-hitting Collins will need to bring more than just raw power to counter the tactical Barty who has been rampant so far, winning 20 of 21 sets this year.
But Collins has proven at Melbourne Park that she belongs on the big stage, and has pushed Barty hard in their previous four matches, winning their previous encounter in Adelaide last year in straight sets.
Barty has repeatedly pointed during the tournament to her ability to “problem-solve” while on court, a trait she has worked on with coach Craig Tyzzer.
That will again come into play against Collins, who is not just one of the game’s hardest hitters, but also one of its most passionate, intense athletes in stark contrast to an often unflustered Barty.
The American will not just have to contend with the brilliance of Barty at the other side of the net but also the entire might of the crowd, but having spent a lot of time in the collegiate circuit in USA where things are often very rowdy in the stands, she knows a thing or two about handling it. And coupled with a nothing-to-lose attitude plus her experience of battling it out in public parks, Collins is hoping to channel her past experience to challenge the home favourite.
Barty: “To be in the finals weekend of your home Grand Slam is what a lot of Aussie players dream of. Yeah, it’s going to be an incredible experience come Saturday.
“I think the way she’s (Collins) able to control the baseline and really take the game on she’s one of the most fierce competitors out here. She loves to get in your face and loves to really take it on.
“It’s going to be a challenge for me to try and neutralise as best that I can. I think the challenge is going to be trying to get her off-balance.”
Collins: “I think for me when I have a really clear idea of my tactics and what I want to do, it’s easier for me to get there.
“But then, you know, just like any other athlete and I think all of us on tour, you know, we have days where we try to get in the zone and we can’t. But I think it really helps when you can have a real clear road map to what you want to do on court and how you want to execute your game plan.
“I don’t think anyone is going to feel great going out to play her (Barty) because they know they have to play really well. I’m going to have to kind of look back at some of the matches that we have played in the past and sit down and think about what worked well and maybe some of the things that didn’t work as well and just try to come up with the best game plan possible.”
Inputs from AFP
Match will be live from 2 pm IST, broadcast on the Sony Sports Network