Date: 27 January 2022.
Venue: Melbourne, Australia.
Category: Grand Slam.
Surface: Outdoor Hardcourt.
Prize money: $75,000,000.
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel | UK - Eurosport | India - Sony Six, Sony Liv.
Ashleigh Barty vs Madison Keys preview
Former Australian Open semifinalists Ashleigh Barty and Madison Keys will square off in a blockbuster semifinal at Melbourne Park on Thursday.
Interestingly, both players are on winning streaks, having triumphed at Adelaide International 1 and 2 respectively prior to the ongoing Slam. They have been in sublime form at the Australian Open as well.
The World No. 1 Aussie has motored her way through the draw, conceding just 17 games in five matches so far. Five of the 10 sets that she has played at the Major have been either a bagel or a breadstick, underlining her dominance and grip over the rest of the field.
This includes her quarterfinal against 21st seed Jessica Pegula. Barty committed 22 unforced errors - an uncharacteristically high number for the usually precise Aussie. But the 25-year-old was able to raise her level on the big points to race away to a 6-2, 6-0 win.
Barty will now hope to replicate those efforts against an opponent she has known since her junior days in Madison Keys.
Having struggled for the whole of 2021, where she managed just 11 wins, Keys has roared back to form this season. The American has now tallied the same number of wins she managed in 2021 in just three tournaments this year.
That in itself proves how well she has been striking the ball since the start of the season.
Keys won just a solitary match at the Melbourne Summer Set 2 in her first tournament of the year. However, the 26-year-old has rebounded to build a sizzling 10-match winning streak, the best of her career.
Only World No. 110 Qiang Wang in the third round was able to take a set off the 2017 US Open runner-up at the Australian Open. Keys has scalped the likes of fourth seed Barbora Krejcikova, eighth seed Paula Badosa and 11th seed Sofia Kenin in her terrific run to the last four.
The former World No. 7 will now hope to continue her winning momentum against Barty in what will be her sternest of the week.
Ashleigh Barty vs Madison Keys head-to-head
Barty leads Keys 2-1 in the head-to-head, having won their last couple of meetings in straight sets. Having demolished Keys 6-4, 6-1 at the 2019 Fed Cup, she went on to edge the American 6-3, 7-5 at Roland Garros that same year.
Ashleigh Barty vs Madison Keys prediction
An uber-aggressive player, Madison Keys can be dangerous with her serve and first strike. In five matches, the American has already served 35 aces, with 11 coming against reigning French Open champion Krejcikova in her last match.
When Keys gets into a rhythm with her gigantic forehand work, she is pretty much unstoppable.
But Barty has exactly the type of game that could break her rhythm. With her backhand slices and low balls, she will look to nullify Keys' strengths. The Aussie's angles, variety and fantastic shot placement could make the World No. 51 uncomfortable and draw errors off her racquet.
Barty's serve is another strong point of her game. She doesn't have the speed of Keys but her placement remains pitch perfect.
However, Keys could sniff her opportunities if Barty struggles with her precision. The Aussie struggled with her forehand in the initial stages of her match against Pegula, which ultimately led to her committing 22 unforced errors to 17 winners.
Should there be a recurrence, Keys has to pounce on her chances. That said, Barty is excellent at solving problems in the heat of the moment and knows how to raise her level on the big points. She is unlikely to squander her chance of collecting her third Major trophy at home.
Prediction: Ashleigh Barty to win in two tight sets.