Australian Open: S. Williams d. Barty
Ash Barty was born in 1996, the same year that her opponent, Serena Williams, joined the WTA tour. But the young Aussie showed the tennis world that she already knows a lot about the game on Monday night. She gave us glimpses of soft hands, clean ball-striking, a variety of shots and spins, an innate court sense, and a self-deprecating sense of humor. Unfortunately, none of those things, which are normally assets on a tennis court, mattered at all. The 17-year-old was steamrolled by the 32-year-old anyway, 6-2, 6-1.
As always with Serena, the biggest difference between the two players was the serve. Barty made just 51 percent of her first deliveries, allowing Serena a chance to tee off on second balls all night. That’s how the mismatch in the rallies began, and it ended in easy domination by Serena; she hit 31 winners to Barty’s five. Barty’s shots looped; Serena’s penetrated. The 155th-ranked Aussie has talent, but she could use a little more height—she’s just 5’5”. And when the ship began to sink in the second set, she couldn't find a way to keep it floating and at least make Williams work for the win.
As for Serena, she was sharp, especially around the net, where she won 10 of 11 points. She hit six aces and didn’t allow Barty a break point, despite making just 59 percent of her first serves. That may be Serena’s biggest advantage of all: She can dominate her service games without needing to make a high percentage of first balls. Tonight she kept the home crowd, who wanted to help Barty in any way they could, out of the action and sent them out of Laver Arena quickly and quietly. The next woman in her way—however briefly—will be Serbia’s Vesna Dolonc.