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Ashleigh Barty, the hope of a whole nation

For a bit, she would almost apologize for torturing her opponents. Since the start of the Australian Open, Ashleigh Barty has remained true to her nature, with restraint. Impassive before her matches, the world number 1 displays a polite smile on the court, far from fitting with the impression of a steamroller left by her scores. To climb for the first time in her career in the final of the Australian fortnight, the local stage did not lose a single set in 6 games, leaving only 21 games in all to her opponents.

Saturday January 29, against the American Danielle Collins (30and world), will the pressure still slip on it? Barty carries on his shoulders the weight of an entire nation, which has been waiting, in ladies and gents alike, for a home victory since 1978 and that of Christine “Chris” O’Neil.

Read also Australian Open: Ashleigh Barty qualified for her first final of the tournament

In Australia, we are already preparing the festivities, as the course of the 25-year-old player impresses. “She is much more convincing than the other players and plays a game that the others cannot counter, assures Courtney Walsh, Australian sports journalist who covers the tournament, contacted by telephone. If she plays like this since the start of the tournament, she will win the final. »

Despite his small size (1.66 m), his illegible serves and his backhand slice are wreaking havoc. Even the American Madison Keys, who was the toughest opponent of the moment, could not find the keys in the semi-finals on Thursday (6-1, 6-3 defeat).

On Saturday, when she steps onto the Rod Laver Arena, Ashleigh Barty will certainly have a flashback to her first appearances at the Australian Open in 2012, 2013 and 2014. On January 13, 2014, when she only 17, she lost in the first round to Serena Williams. The American dubs it: “I stood ready because I know she’s a great player and has a bright future ahead of her. »

A status of champion finally assumed

But the pressure is too strong for the one who sees herself thus labeled “great hope of Australian women’s tennis”. The young woman then takes a break of eighteen months, between 2014 and 2016, to start playing cricket. Before the lack of competition and the emotions provided by tennis are felt. “At 20, you see life differently than at 16”she says on her return.

Read also Roland-Garros: the coronation of Ashleigh Barty, one day left tennis to better return

Ashleigh Barty finally agreed to become what she was meant to be: a champion. After her defeats at the Australian Open in the third round (2017, 2018), in the quarter-finals (2019, 2021) and in the semi-finals (2020), she assumes her status as the best player in the world this year. “On the court, she handles the pressure very well. After her victory against Jessica Pegula [en quarts de finale]she indicated that she felt much better than two years ago before her semi-final loss against Sofia Kenin »details the journalist Courtney Walsh.

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