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Barty crushes Keys to make Australian Open final

MELBOURNE (AFP) – A ruthless Ashleigh Barty swept into her first Australian Open final yesterday with the top seed outgunning a resurgent Madison Keys in a clinical, straight-sets demolition.

The world number one overwhelmed the 51st-ranked American 6-1, 6-3 in just 62 minutes to set up showdown against either Polish seventh seed Iga Swiatek or American 27th seed Danielle Collins.

Barty 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 winner since Chris O’Neil two years earlier.

She is also looking to add to her 2020 French Open and 2021 Wimbledon 2021 titles, with the top seed on an ominous 10-match win streak to start the year.

“Honestly, it’s just incredible. I’m just happy I get to play my best tennis here,” said Barty, who is assured of retaining her world number one ranking even if she loses the final.

Ashleigh Barty plays a backhand return to Madison Keys. PHOTO: AP

“The ball was a little slower tonight, heavier off the strings. I just tried to run and adapt, make as many balls as I could and keep Maddie under the pump on her serve because she has the ability to really take it away from you quickly.”

Barty paid tribute to Keys, a former top-10 player who is on the rise again after difficult couple of years.

“It’s just so nice to see her back where she belongs,” said Barty. “She’s an amazing human being.”

Barty has been unassailable in Melbourne, dropping her serve just once through six matches and is yet to drop a set.

And the top seed was once more in full command of her game with an attacking forehand and lethal backhand slice.

Facing Barty on her home turf was an unenviable assignment for 26-year-old Keys, but she came into the game on a 10-match win streak, the best run of her career.

The Australian, though, immediately pressured her serve to create a break point that she converted with a cross-court winner to assert early control.

She consolidated with a serve to love as Keys struggled to get her racquet on the ball before the American gained confidence with a hold for 1-2.

The American was broken again in the fifth game, as her unforced error count mounted.