Tennis: Top seed Barty crushes Keys to make Australian Open final

Australian and world number one Ashleigh Barty (left) overwhelmed the 51st-ranked American Madison Keys 6-1, 6-3 in just 62 minutes. PHOTOS: REUTERS, AFP

MELBOURNE (AFP, REUTERS) - A ruthless Ashleigh Barty swept into her first Australian Open final on Thursday (Jan 27) with the top seed outgunning a resurgent Madison Keys in a clinical straight-sets demolition.

The world No. 1 overwhelmed the 51st-ranked American 6-1, 6-3 in just 62 minutes to set up showdown against American 27th seed Danielle Collins.

Collins overpowered Polish seventh seed and former French Open champion Iga Swiatek 6-4, 6-1 in the second semi-final to reach her first Grand Slam decider.

Barty, the reigning Wimbledon champion has yet to drop a set in the Grand Slam and has lost just 21 games in six matches. Victory in Saturday's final would make her the first local to win the Australian Open since Chris O'Neil in 1978.

Barty said she could not wait to play on Saturday.

“Absolutely. Let’s do it,” the beaming Australian said on court. “It is unreal. Honestly, it is just incredible.

“I love coming out here and playing in Australia and, as an Aussie, we are exceptionally spoilt that we are a Grand Slam nation (and) we get to play in our backyard and I am just happy that I get to play my best tennis here.

“I’ve done well before and now we have a chance to play for a title. It is unreal.”

She paid tribute to her American opponent, who endured a difficult 2021 following some health issues but has started the season brightly.

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

“You see the way she carries herself on the court. She smiles and she gives it her best. But I love most that she is a great person. We really respect her and we love her.”

While the women's semi-final was a tame affair, things were far more fiery in the men's doubles semi-finals, with tennis' bad boy Nick Kyrgios smashing a racket and flipping a finger at the crowd as he and partner Thanasi Kokkinakis ensured an all-Australian Melbourne Park men's doubles final for the first time in 42 years.

Kyrgios and Kokkinakis defeated third seeds Horacio Zeballos and Marcel Granollers 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 to set up a final on Saturday against fellow Australians Matt Ebden and Max Purcell.

The combustible Kyrgios hit boiling point as he complained about the net cord machine, then pulled out of a service motion at 4-2 in the first set.

He also complained that the Rod Laver Arena crowd were yelling in between first and second serves, despite the fact that he and Kokkinakis had been whipping up the fans into a boorish frenzy.

He flipped a finger at one section of the crowd, petulantly threw a ball against a wall and smashed his racket after he dropped his serve.

"When are you going to control the crowd, bro?" he pleaded with the chair umpire, James Keothavong. "You're gonna keep letting them scream before I serve? It happened four times that game."

The Kyrgios complaints about the crowd echo those of some of his opponents earlier in the tournament, and seem surprising given his partner Kokkinakis had said "the rowdier the better from everyone".

Daniil Medvedev took aim at sections of the crowd following his singles victory over Kyrgios a week ago, saying: "They probably have a low IQ."

Quarter-final doubles opponent Michael Venus then labelled Kyrgios an "absolute knob" for his antics on court.

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But Kyrgios said he would not rise to the jibe after his semi-final win with Kokkinakis.

"I'm not going to destroy (Venus) in this media conference room right now," he said.

"But Zeballos and Granollers are singles players. They've had great careers. I respect them a lot more than I respect Michael Venus."

The controversy has not only been to do with the yobbish behaviour of spectators.

Kyrgios accused a coach and trainer associated with Croatian doubles pair Mate Pavic and Nikola Mektic of threatening to fight him after the top seeds were bundled out.

"Just letting you know after yesterday's chop fest in doubles my opponents coach and trainer proceeded to threaten to fight in the players gym," he said on Twitter.

Kokkinakis responded: "That was crazy!! Man thought it was @ufc," referring to the mixed martial arts Ultimate Fighting Championship.

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