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Australian Open

Ash Barty breaks a 42-year drought by reaching the Australian Open final

Ash Barty will play U.S. tennis star Danielle Collins in the Australian Open final on Saturday, becoming the first Australian woman to reach the final of her home major tournament in 42 years.

Barty beat U.S. player Madison Keys in a businesslike match Thursday, taking just over an hour to win 6-1, 6-3.

While it’s a feat simply to reach the final of a Grand Slam, Barty, the world’s no. 1 player, wants to break a 44-year drought: the last Australian woman to win the Australian Open title was Chris O’Neil, in 1978.

“It’s just incredible,” Barty said in an on-court interview after her win, discussing the possibility of winning a Grand Slam on home soil.

“I’m just happy that I get to play my best tennis here,” she said. “I enjoy it, I’ve done well before and now we have a chance to play for a title. It’s unreal.”

Barty, 25, has been dominant in this tournament, in which she hasn’t lost a single set. After the match, a reporter asked Keys what it’s like to play her in top form.

“It’s tough. It sucks,” Keys said with a laugh. “She’s just playing incredibly well” in all aspects of her game.

Keys, who was unseeded, had been on a remarkable run in Australia, where she captured the title in the WTA’s tune-up tournament in Adelaide. After losing to Barty, Keys said she was disappointed — but she added that she’ll also have more confidence for her 2022 campaign.

“All in all, after the year that I’ve had, I’m pretty happy with my summer in Australia,” Keys said.

Collins, 28, will be playing in the first Grand Slam final of her career. Currently ranked no. 30 in the world, she dispatched Iga Swiatek, the tourney’s seventh seed, 6-4, 6-1. After bouncing back from medical issues in 2021 — including surgery for endometriosis — Collins has been able to dictate play by crushing baseline strokes in Melbourne.

“Feels amazing,” Collins said after reaching the final, according to the Australian Open website. “It’s been such a journey and it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s so many years of hard work and hours in an early age on court.”

“All the early mornings my dad would practice with me before school, and it’s just incredible to be on the stage,” she added. “Especially with the health challenges, I’m just so grateful. I couldn’t be happier.”

For Barty to make history, she’ll have to beat her fourth U.S. opponent in a row. Amanda Anisimova remains the only player to break Barty’s serve, in the fourth round. Barty then beat Jessica Pegula in the quarters, before setting her sights on Keys and a trip to the final against Collins.

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