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Ash Barty powers into Australian Open semi-finals


Ash Barty has continued her red-hot start to the summer by marching into the Australian Open semi-finals at Melbourne Park.

The world No.1 is still yet to drop a set at the year’s first grand slam after seeing off 21st seed Jessica Pegula 6-2 6-0 in just over an hour on Monday night.

Despite knocking out fifth seed Maria Sakkari in the fourth round, and having reached the Open quarter-finals for a second year running, Pegula entered the clash a huge underdog.

It showed early when Barty, who had spent three hours less time on court than Pegula across the opening four rounds, broke the American’s serve in the opening game of the night.

It set the tone for the match as Barty went on to claim another four breaks in the demolition job.

Barty had her run of 63 consecutive service games won snapped by Amanda Anisimova in the fourth round but has already begun working her way towards another impressive streak.

The Queenslander held serve at each time of asking — seven games in total — in a strong display against Pegula.

Barty sent down six aces and committed just two double faults, while generating an 81 per cent winning rate on her first serve and smacking 17 winners to Pegula’s seven.

“That was solid tonight, I had a lot of fun out here,” Barty said.

“I was able to serve and find a lot of forehands in the centre of the court and I was happy to take the game on, be aggressive off my forehand and not worry if I miss a couple as long as I’m doing the right things.

“I felt like I was able to do that throughout the whole match.”

Pegula’s defeat was the second major sporting blow for her family this week after the Buffalo Bills — the NFL team her billionaire father Terry Pegula owns — lost a heartbreaking divisional play-off game in overtime on Monday (AEDT).

It was Barty’s second career win over Pegula and perhaps a good omen, given the previous occasion was in the first round at Roland Garros in 2019.

Barty went on to win that French Open title for her first major.

“Jess is an incredible person, our lockers are just a couple (away from) each other and she is a brilliant girl,” Barty said.

“I love to test myself against her and she came out here and really made me play my best tennis so far this week.”

Hoping to break the host country’s 44-year Open singles title drought, Barty will play another American, former US Open runner-up Madison Keys, on Thursday for a place in the final.

Barty previously reached the last four in Melbourne two years ago, losing to eventual champion Sofia Kenin, and is confident of going further this time.

“I’ve grown as a person, I’ve grown as a player,” Barty said.

“I feel like I’m a more complete tennis player.

“I’m absolutely loving playing out here.

“It’s been a lot of fun so far and hopefully there’s a little bit more left.”

Barty is on the verge of becoming the first local women’s Open finalist since Wendy Turnbull in 1980.

Chris O’Neill was the last Australian woman to win the title in 1978.


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