?? Australian Open, SF #1 preview + prediction:
?? (1) Ash Barty vs. ?? (14) Sofia Kenin
Ash Barty continues her quest to become the first Australian woman to win the Australian Open since 1978 when she comes up against the 14th seeded Sofia Kenin in the first semi-final on Thursday. Barty heads into this match as a strong favourite but will be unlikely to have things all go her own way against a feisty opponent that has previously beaten the Australian.
Ash Barty is on a 9-match winning streak heading into semi-final day at Melbourne Park. The world number 1 arrived in Melbourne fresh from winning the title in Adelaide and has steadily worked her way into top form at her home major to reach the final 4 for the first time. Barty has twice been pushed to 3 sets this tournament but managed to get the job done in 2 over her trickiest opponent thus far to confirm her spot in the semi-finals with a 7/6 6/2 win over the 7th seeded Petra Kvitova. The Barty backhand slice continues to cause her opponents all types of problems, a weapon that could take Barty all the way to the title.
Sofia Kenin has made the most of a favourable draw to motor her way through to a maiden Grand Slam semi-final appearance. Kenin moved through the first week with straight set wins over Martina Trevisan, Ann Li and Shuai Zhang. It was in the fourth round that the American dropped her only set of the tournament, fighting from behind to defeat Cori Gauff 6/7 6/3 6/0. Kenin booked her spot in the semi-finals with a tricky 6/4 6/4 win over Ons Jabeur.
Barty heads into this clash with a 3-1 head-to-head record over Kenin. The pair met on 3 occasions in 2019, it was Barty who won the most recent match between the pair, a 6/3 7/5 win in Wuhan. Kenin pushed Barty to 3 sets at Roland Garros before beating the Aussie 6/7 6/3 6/4 at the Rogers Cup.
I get the sense of an upset here, I’ll side with Kenin. This is certainly the biggest test Barty has faced, Kenin is a difficult match-up for Barty and is not messing around at the moment. Kenin has beaten Barty on a hard court, recently at the Rogers Cup last year and has challenged Barty in all of their previous matches. Kenin has the solid baseline game to deal with the variety of Barty, she isn’t afraid to get into extended rallies and has the firepower to hurt the Aussie when the right opportunity presents. Kenin will be able to deal with the Barty backhand slice better than any of the Aussie’s previous opponent have this tournament. Barty has mainly faced powerful opponents at this event but will face a different task here.