WATCH: Tennis Channel Live discusses Barty's semifinal win over Madison Keys.


“I think every time we’ve played, we’ve battled,” Collins says of her past matches against the top-seeded Barty. “Even the matches I’ve lost have been some of my most memorable moments on court.”

This is a theme from Barty’s opponents: They like her, they like her game, and they like to play her, even when she quietly goes about demolishing them. Witness the wide grin that Madison Keys brought to the handshake after getting steamrolled by Barty in the semis. When the person on the other side of the net doesn’t mind losing to you, and can’t muster anything personal against you, you’ve put yourself in an enviable position. Just ask Roger Federer.

Barty and Collins have played four times, and Barty has won three. Two of those wins were in three sets, though Collins won their most recent match, in Adelaide last year, in straights. So they have had their battles.

Over the last two weeks, though, no one had found a way to bring the fight to the home favorite. No one has found an answer, or come close to finding an answer, to Barty’s pace-shifting backhand slice-forehand drive combination. Barty has dropped just 20 games in six matches, and has only been pushed to 6-4 in a set once. That’s all-time, Nadal-at-Roland Garros type domination. Keys was playing the tennis of her life coming into the semis, but she was fully flummoxed by the Barty attack.

Barty owns a winning head-to-head against Collins, but lost their most recent meeting in Adelaide last February.

Barty owns a winning head-to-head against Collins, but lost their most recent meeting in Adelaide last February.

You might counter that Barty has yet to face anyone in the Top 20, and that’s true. But Collins isn’t in the Top 20, either. The American has won with power, fiery competitiveness, and a steadily increasing confidence. It’s hard to say how she’ll react to her first Grand Slam final, but the self-described Danimal is good at narrowing her focus to the task at hand, and letting her competitive instincts take over.

It’s also hard to say how her slugging style will hold up against Barty’s subtle rejoinders. One thing that might help Collins is her backhand; it’s her biggest weapon, and Barty’s crosscourt slice will spin right into it. But we’ve seen Barty face big backhands and big hitters over the past fortnight, and we’ve seen her dismantle them with surprising ease each time.

As for Barty’s mental state, she has had her collapses at Melbourne Park before. She goes to great pains to say she’s not bothered by the expectations at home, but it doesn’t seem like a coincidence that she’s won her major titles on the road. Now, finally, it looks like she’s fully comfortable with her status as the player to beat, and ready to bring the Australian Open title back to Australia for the first time in four decades.

Winner: Ashleigh Barty