World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty’s quest for her first Australian Open title continues in her meeting with world No. 51 Madison Keys in the semifinals. Considering Keys' form—and the fact that she's also a former world No. 7—you aren’t going to want to read too much into the discrepancy in seeding here. You are, however, more than welcome to back the Australian based on how dominant she’s been in Melbourne thus far.
In Barty’s five victories in this tournament, the 25-year-old has yet to drop a single set. Considering that her last three wins were over Camila Giorgi, Amanda Anisimova and Jessica Pegula, that’s no small feat. Barty lost a total of 17 games over those five matches, which is an even more telling statistic. All in all, Barty has been near flawless to this point, and the same can’t be said about her opponent.
While Keys is coming off of a 6-3, 6-2 win over world No. 4 Barbora Krejcikova—a result we cashed on—that outcome was more of a result of the Czech’s undoing than Keys’ strong play. Sure, the American did well to hold her nerve, but Krejcikova simply couldn’t handle the heat, and that caused her to make a ton of mistakes. Keys’ previous opponent, Paula Badosa, also made things rather easy on Keys, as she had only 10 winners compared to 20 unforced errors.
Keys isn’t going to get the same kinds of errors out of Barty; the world No. 1 is simply on another level in comparison to the rest of the WTA tour. Her groundstrokes are immaculate, and she’s an excellent, underrated server, putting her deliveries exactly where she needs to set up her next shot. Pegula is one of the best players in the world, and Barty made her look like she won a fan contest to play in the quarterfinals at a major—and it wasn’t even the Aussie's best night.
Even with the hometown pressure on Barty, count on her to come through this match comfortably. Barty is 3-0 in her three career meetings with the American, and she covered a 3.5-game spread in each of those three victories. Also, two of those wins came at the French Open, so it’s not like she hasn’t seen the 26-year-old on a big stage before.
Keys' run has been extremely fun to watch, and we’ve done well backing her Down Under, but you need to know when to walk away. While she's made significant strides already this season, we’ve seen that she’s still susceptible to some letdown moments. Barty is going to pounce on her when she’s down, and that’s why we’re taking her to come away with a straightforward win—even with a little juice on the odds.
The Pick: Ashleigh Barty -3.5 Games (-180)