Finalist Barty living out her Open dream

Ash Barty says she’s living out a childhood dream after sweeping past Madison Keys in straight sets to become the first home hope to reach the Australian Open women’s singles final in 42 years.

The world No.1 and dual grand slam champion crushed Keys 6-1 6-3 on Thursday night to bury the demons of her shattering 2020 semi-final defeat to fellow American Sofia Kenin.

The first Australian to make the women’s Open title match since Wendy Turnbull in 1980, Barty delivered another serving masterclass on Rod Laver Arena to see off Keys in just 62 minutes.

The 25-year-old’s last hurdle in her quest to become the first local Open singles champion since Chris O’Neil in 1978 will be resurgent American world No.30 Danielle Collins on Saturday night.

“It’s unreal. Honestly, it is just incredible,” Barty said.

“To be in the finals weekend of your home grand slam is what a lot of Aussie players dream of.

“I love this tournament, love coming out here and playing in Australia and, as an Aussie, we are exceptionally spoiled that we are a grand slam nation (and) we get to play in our backyard and I am just happy that I get to play my best tennis here.

“I enjoy it, I’ve done well before and now we have a chance to play for a title. It’s unreal.”

And the top seed can once again thank her imperious serve for setting up the 10th victory of her glorious unbeaten summer.

Remarkably, Barty has dropped only one of her past 82 service games since her opening match of the year against Coco Gauff in Adelaide almost four weeks ago.

“I just feel really clear on my service games,” she said.

“I have a lot of trust in my game, have a lot of trust in my serve.

“Even tonight I feel like I gave Maddie a lot of looks at second serves. I didn’t quite have my rhythm on the first serve but, when I needed it most, it was there.”

Looking untouchable, Barty is yet to drop a set all tournament and has conceded just 21 games in 12 near-flawless matches in the most dominant run to the final since Steffi Graf in 1989.

Collins booked her date with destiny with an equally impressive 6-4 6-1 dispatch of seventh-seeded Iga Swiatek in the second semi.

Barty holds a 2-1 winning record over Collins but lost their most recent meeting – in Adelaide last year the week after the world No.1’s shock Open quarter-final loss to Karolina Muchova.

“Danielle has done incredibly well here in Australia before,” Barty said.

“The way she’s able to control the baseline and really take the game on, she’s one of the most fierce competitors out here.

“It’s going to be an incredible experience come Saturday. I can’t wait to go out there and enjoy it.”

Barty made a flying start to Thursday’s historic first women’s night-time semi-final, producing a brilliant running forehand pass to break Keys in the opening game.

She typically had no such troubles on her serve, rocketing down an ace on her very first delivery of the match and holding to love for a 2-0 lead.

The Wimbledon champion broke Keys for a second time in the fifth game, then a third time in the seventh game on the way to wrapping up the first set in 27 minutes.

Contesting her fourth grand slam semi-final, and second in Australia, Keys, the 2017 US Open runner-up, offered more resistance in the second set.

But there was no denying Barty as the hot title favourite repeated her 2019 French Open quarter-final triumph over the big-hitting American en route to her maiden grand slam title in Paris.

© AAP 2022

Dylan Alcott bows out with Open final loss

Dylan Alcott’s farewell party has been spoiled with the wheelchair tennis legend bowing out of the sport with a defeat in the Australian Open final.

After a whirlwind 48 hours, the 2022 Australian of the Year was upset by Dutch second seed Sam Schroder in Thursday’s quad decider at Rod Laver Arena.

After all the accolades and applause of recent days, Alcott fought hard but could not withstand an irresistible second-set charge from Schroder, losing 7-5 6-0 to end a seven-year run of dominance at Melbourne Park.

The 31-year-old admitted before the match he was “fried” after rushing to Canberra on Tuesday night directly following his semi-final win, soaking in the honour that came his way, and preparing for what he said was his “last dance”.

Schroder worked Alcott all the way around the court, forcing the homegrown hero into making 31 unforced errors.

“The Australian Open, I love you so much … thank you for changing my life but also backing someone who is disabled to be the front of your brand,” the world No.1 said.

“You changed my life, but judging by that award I got a couple of days ago, maybe I helped changed some other lives as well.”

Alcott received an unbelievable level of support in the stands, with last year’s Australian of the Year Grace Tame watching on.

But what pleased Alcott most was the number of disabled people, a large number of them children, who were able to turn out for the final.

Host broadcaster Nine Network even held back TV news bulletins across the country to stick with Alcott’s match until the end.

“I’m really the luckiest guy in the world and I didn’t need to win today to realise that,” Alcott said.

“It’s because you, everyone watching here, that people like me, people with disability are getting the recognition and that we’re integrated and involved in society.

“If you look up there in the stands and the number of people with disability that are here.

“That’s the reason I get out of bed, it really is.

“To my community, thanks for always backing me, I hope I make you proud in the next 12 months as your Australian of the Year.”

Alcott heads off into retirement and a busy year ahead in his new role as AOTY with 15 grand slam titles.

He completed an unprecedented golden slam last year, winning all four majors as well as the Tokyo Paralympics event.

Alcott’s last words on Melbourne Park’s centre court as a tennis player were: “Should I come back? Nah, just kidding”.

© AAP 2022

Kyrgios, Kokkinakis into all-Aussie final

Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis are Australian Open finalists after the enigmatic box office act powered into an all-local doubles decider at Melbourne Park.

The Special Ks’ semi-final was promoted to Rod Laver Arena after their giant-killing run on outside courts and the home hopes did not disappoint on centre stage.

Kyrgios and Kokkinakis outlasted third seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 in an hour and 47 minutes on Thursday.

Showing more focus and restraint than in previous matches on the raucous outside courts, the pair mostly let their irresistible tennis do the talking.

But it would not be a Kyrgios match with at least one blow-up.

The 26-year-old was furious late in the second set after facing two break points against his serve.

Kyrgios let out some expletives at himself, argued with the umpire about the net cord sensor and pleaded for the crowd to stop talking during serves, before smashing a racquet when he dropped the game.

But the pair were able to close out the match by breaking back, with Kokkinakis hitting the winning shot with a classy lob.

“It’s all about the crowd, the atmosphere, that gets us going and we worry about the tennis second,” Kokkinakis said.

“It brings the best out of us and I don’t know if we would have got this result anywhere else.

“I think both of us bring something different, different energy, different sort of charisma on the court, but we just enjoy it and have fun.”

The great Rod Laver, who only turns up for big matches on the court that is named in his honour, watched on from the front row, as did legendary Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh.

The victory sets up an all-Australian final at the Australian Open for the first time since 1980 with Matt Ebden and Max Purcell taking down second seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury 6-3 7-6 (11-9) in their semi-final.

“Those two are great doubles players and we’re not going to take them lightly,” Kyrgios said.

© AAP 2022

Usher Cup surfing contest returns to Snapper Rocks this weekend

Some of the best boardrider clubs from across Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria are set descend on Snapper Rocks from tomorrow for the second annual Usher Cup surf contest.

The three day event will see 144 male and female surfers hit the water to battle it out for a prize pool of over $73,000.

Teams will also be battling it out for the perpetual Club Championship trophy, and the opportunity to win $3,000 for their club.

“The Usher Cup is a great platform for aspiring pro surfers to step up a few levels from normal club surfing,” co-founder Wayne ‘Rabbit’ Bartholomew said.

“The 2022 edition of the Usher Cup will pit the best Queensland and Northern NSW clubs against elite interstate clubs such as National Champions North Narrabeen, Torquay and North Shelly Clubs. This is going to be a phenomenal showdown.”

For those who can’t make it down to the Usher Cup, the event will be live streamed via ushercup.com/live/.

Aussies to dominate Day Eleven of Australian Open

It’s set to be a jam-packed day at the Australian Open with a number of Aussies hitting the court for Day Eleven.

Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott is preparing for his “last dance” on the tennis court as he aims for his eighth Australian Open title in today’s quad final at Rod Laver Arena.

The 31-year-old, who became the only man to complete the Golden Slam in quad singles last year, said whatever way the result goes he will be happy.

“It’s the last dance, baby… win, lose or draw,” he said.

“I mean, I want to win, but I will live if I don’t win. I’m still the luckiest guy in the world if I don’t win”.

Fan favourites Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis are also in action today in the men’s doubles semi-final.

They’re taking on third seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos, with crowd demand for the “Special K’s” clash forcing Tennis Australia to move the match to Rod Laver Arena.

Australia’s other doubles pairing of Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell will also hit the court in the other semi-final.

If both win, it could be an all-Aussie grand final.

Following the day session, all eyes will be on World Number One Ash Barty tonight, when she takes on American Madison Keys in the women’s singles semi-final.