First set: Halep* 5-5 Muguruza (* denotes server) The sign of a champion player? She needed to break and Halep does just that. Muguruza doesn’t help herself, hitting the net at 0-30 down to give the Romanian three chances. She needs just the one, after a rally featuring two net cords, which make life a bit tricky for the Spaniard. Nothing to separate these two in terms of the scoreboard at the moment.
First set: Halep* 4-5 Muguruza (* denotes server) Faced with having to win this game to stay in the first set, Halep rises to the occasion perfectly. A stunning backhand winner to go 30-0 ahead highlights what turns out to be a love service game. But she’ll now have to break Muguruza now if she’s to stay alive.
First set: Halep 3-5 Muguruza* (* denotes server) Muguruza finds the net at 30-30 and Halep is presented with a chance to break back immediately. But the Spaniard moves with intent and flashes a forehand winner past Halep to save it. She continues her clean striking of the ball and wraps up the game with a fantastic forehand winner.
First set: Halep* 3-4 Muguruza (* denotes server) A wonderful forehand slice brings up another chance for Muguruza to break Halep and this time she gets it with a backhand winner! The Spaniard with the advantage now.
First set: Halep 3-3 Muguruza* (* denotes server) This is quick-fire tennis, neither player is standing back, and we’re six games in with just 25 minutes on the clock. Muguruza holds again, without fuss, and it’s on serve midway thought the opening set.
First set: Halep* 3-2 Muguruza (* denotes server) A bit of a wobble here from Halep, as Muguruza brings up two break point chances. The Spaniard fails to take either though, and when she adds two more to her unforced error count – one backhand, one forehand – any hope of making a breakthrough this game evaporates.
First set: Halep 2-2 Muguruza* (* denotes server) A couple of errors creep into Halep’s game at the beginning of this game, giving Muguruza a little helping hand in opening up a 30-0 lead. But it’s contagious and the Spaniard delivers two unforced errors of her own before she manages to secure the game – thanks to a Halep ball into the net. Still on serve early in this first set.
First set: Halep* 2-1 Muguruza (* denotes server) And another for Halep, who serves out to love with the minimum of fuss. She looks the more comfortable of the two players with the ball in hand on the evidence so far today – she’s boasting a 100% first serve win percentage.
First set: Halep 1-1 Muguruza* (* denotes server) Halep, who is coached by Australian Darren Cahill, is through to the final four without dropping a set. Having expended as little energy as possible on her way, that efficiency may prove a key factor in today’s match. Muguruza has to save two break points here, but survives her opening service game.
First set: Halep* 1-0 Muguruza (* denotes server) No messing about then, straight into the next match. Halep serves first and eases to a comfortable opening game. It’s getting hot out there, although the roof is still open, which means the heat threshold has still not been reached. That could yet change. It was 4.8 on the scale earlier – 5 is the limit.
Thanks Emma. So Sofia Kenin awaits the winner of our next match, to be contested between world No 3 Simona Halep and 32-ranked Garbiñe Muguruza. They’re already on court, so let’s have a quick look at the tale of the tape between this pair.
The Spaniard leads head-to-head 3-2, although she trails 1-0 at grand slams, following Halep’s convincing win on the red dirt of Roland Garros in the 2018 French Open semi-final. Halep’s other win over Muguruza also came on clay – in Stuttgart five years ago – while the Spaniard’s three victories all came on hard courts – in Cincy, at the Fed Cup and in Wuhan.
Halep, a former world No 1, is seeking her third grand slam crown, to add to those won in Paris in 2018 and at Wimbledon last year. The Romanian is bidding to reach her second Australian Open final, having lost to the now-retired Caroline Wozniacki in the 2018 decider.
For her part, Muguruza is in the last four of the Australian Open for the first time, but like Halep has also won two previous slams – the French in 2016 and Wimbledon in 2017.
Plenty to look forward to. Please do get in touch with an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on Twitter @mike_hytner.
In summary, this wasn’t Barty’s best display. She wasn’t quite the indestructible force she has been throughout an affair in nearly 40-degree heat. Unforced errors did not help her cause – she made 36 to Kenin’s 25 – but it was difficult to fault the 14th-seeded American. Australia’s 42-year wait for a home-grown Australian Open champion continues.
Here’s Kevin Mitchell’s match report from Rod Laver Arena:
Thanks for joining me. I’ll now hand the baton to Mike Hytner, who will keep you up to date with the second semi-final.
“It was really tough,” Kenin (the Barty Crasher) continues. “I knew she was not going to give up to me. I really needed to fight out there. She’s a great player. There’s a reason she’s world No 1.”
The dream is over, Australian hearts broken across the seven kingdoms as the nation’s sweetheart bows out one step away from the big dance. The 23-year-old will be bitterly disappointed with that result, beaten in straight sets in a semi-final she was expected to win in straight sets. But blimey, that was some performance from the quiet American, who won four consecutive games from 5-3 down in the second set and could yet go all the way. She has just told Nine she’s actually “feisty”. We believe her.
Kenin beats Barty
Second set: Barty* 6-7, 5-7 Kenin (* denotes server): Barty must keep her cool here and not let the pressure get the better of her. She’s down 0-30 but gets one back. Now Kenin has two match points but it is but a flesh wound as Barty fires from all canisters to keep herself in her home grand slam, capping a superb rally with a winner to match it. She can’t quite get this over the line though and smacks the deciding shot out. Game, set and match. Not quite just a flesh wound, then.
Second set: Barty* 6-7, 5-6 Kenin (* denotes server): This has taken a real turn. Kenin is fearless and Barty playing it too safe. She’s serving to stay in this now and it’s not looking good.
Second set: Barty 6-7, 5-5 Kenin* (* denotes server): Barty has two set points to play with after putting away a winner Kenin barely gets her racquet to. As if shaken awake, a smart-thinking Kenin approaches the net and draws Barty in, before dispatching out of reach. This is a proper scrap now, and Kenin has designs on breaking back, pulling away with the advantage before falling back to deuce via a shanked shot. She’ll have another crack at it, though, after Barty whips one down crosscourt and she responds with interest at an angle even more accute. Kenin makes no mistake this time, and has broken back.
Second set: Barty 6-7, 5-4 Kenin* (* denotes server): A couple of missteps allow Kenin, whose intensity has dropped markedly, to hold from 30-30. Barty will now serve for the second set.
Second set: Barty* 6-7, 5-3 Kenin (* denotes server): If Barty was a knife the cake would be sliced into smithereens. She has adapted commensurately to this challenge under sapping heat and is now using that low, slow backhand slice to her advantage – 95 per cent of her backhands this set have been that option – and it’s eliciting lots of errors up the other end.
Second set: Barty 6-7, 4-3 Kenin* (* denotes server): Kenin cannot allow Barty any further room to move here, after the Australian’s swag of winners. She’s up 40-15 but that thorn in her side slips a little deeper and she’s scratching for a breakthrough moment at 40-30. Barty is engaging in motivating some self-talk but Kenin can’t hear, she’s too busy keeping her cool. She holds.
Second set: Barty* 6-7, 4-2 Kenin (* denotes server): Barty is on the ball now in a manner that betrays nothing of her inconsistencies last set.
An email! “So enjoy your humour,” says Freydis Welland. “Thanks from a loyal Canadian watching a masterclass at the Royal Opera House just now too.”
Enjoy that, Freydis. Send in your best tennis one-liners and we’ll give them a run.
Second set: Barty 6-7, 3-2 Kenin* (* denotes server): The heat is rising, quite literally, on Rod Laver Arena. The index is now at 4.8. Once it hits 5 the roof will be closed.
Second set: Barty* 6-7, 3-1 Kenin (* denotes server): Barty is problem solving now, asking questions different to the ones Kenin had answers for last set. A strengthening hold.
Second set: Barty 6-7, 2-1 Kenin* (* denotes server): Barty breaks. Up a break point, she doesn’t allow it to slip through her fingers as she did one in the opening set. Steely-eyed, she opens both barrels. This is why she’s world No 1. This what the #BartyParty groupies came to see.
Second set: Barty* 6-7, 1-1 Kenin (* denotes server): This hold might be Barty’s way of saying she’s got this. That scripts were written to be ripped up and she won’t stop plugging away despite her opponents’ clear confidence away from home. Even still, every point now carries a nervous edge and she lost the first in this service game before taking the next four.
Second set: Barty 6-7, 0-1 Kenin* (* denotes server): Three points fly by and Kenin is nearly home free at 40-0 before Barty gets a look-in. She waits patiently and then draws Kenin in with a drop shot before sending a high ball sailing over her head. The next point isn’t so fortunate, though, and Kenin has her tail in the air now.
Kenin wins first set
First set tie-break: Barty 6-7(6-8) Kenin: Well well well. Kenin the conqueror is back on top, up 7-6 on serve. Serve she does and Barty shanks the ball straight into the net. Kenin has won the opening set. She can’t be serious? Yes, she is (and don’t call her Shirley). This second set could be a beauty.
First set tie-break: Barty 6-6 Kenin: Barty, wielding two set points, serves a fault. Her second is good, but her follow-up shots not good enough for Kenin’s response. The American is back in business.
First set tie-break: Barty 4-4 Kenin: No sooner than it’s there, it’s gone again. Perhaps the match’s longest rally to date ends anti-climactically on an unforced error – Barty’s 19th.
First set tie-break: Barty 4-2 Kenin: This has been a strange set in that momentum is unclear despite Barty’s easy service games. But Barty has claimed a mini-break with a delightful forehand down the line.
First set tie-break: Barty 2-2 Kenin: Barty is slicing herself silly but she finds herself well out of court and Kenin is too smart, ruthlessly so.
First set: Barty 6-6 Kenin* (* denotes server): It’s not a straightforward hold but a hold it is, and Kenin charges into an opening-set tie-break with the world No 1, who only days ago endured a nail-biting tie-break against Petra Kvitova.
First set: Barty* 6-5 Kenin (* denotes server): This is the first time Barty has encountered real trouble on her serve, going down 0-30 via two unforced errors and on her second serve at that. She claws back to deuce and then claims the advantage then pummels one wide. That’s a bad miss. As if through frustration, it precedes an expeditious first serve and then an unreturnable winner. Kenin, though, is having none of it in the next point, responding in kind and at full stretch for a winner. Big serves follow – the one element of Barty’s game consistently excelling in this match – and Kenin will serve to stay in this set.
First set: Barty 5-5 Kenin* (* denotes server): Kenin, it must be said, does not appear to have any issue under the pressure of her breakthrough slam, in the heat, serving second after Barty sets the tone This
First set: Barty* 5-4 Kenin (* denotes server): There’s that trademark Barty serve, the one way too big for a figure standing at 166cm. And it’s a gorgeous one that whirs wide on the bounce and well out of reach of her adversary. She follows it with a well-disguised drop shot and Kenin misjudges the back-spin. Barty has now won 20/24 points on serve.
First set: Barty 4-4 Kenin* (* denotes server): Kenin is very nearly pushed to deuce again but does well to hold.
First set: Barty* 4-3 Kenin (* denotes server): That was a gritty hold from Kenin, whose progression through this tournament is as quiet as Barty’s temperament and who is projected to crack the top 10 if she pulls off an upset here. Unfortunately for her, Barty is getting into her groove and she holds easily to love. But not before a mesmerising rally that brings out the speed and variety in both girls’ games. Kenin ran every edge of the court, always forced to the extra shot. Into the net for a Barty forehand that drops just over, then back for a high lob she smashes, and in again before Barty eventually reigns.
First set: Barty 3-3 Kenin* (* denotes server): Both players are clearly trying to adjust to the searing heat and Barty struggles with an ice towel during the change of ends. One point into this game and Barty has challenged Kenin’s second serve, which was called in. Hawkeye reveals it was a smidgen out. That moment seems to have put Kenin off her game slightly and all of a sudden the American is down two break points. Barty, still struggling to get her backhand in range, saves them both for her and we’re at deuce. As ever, I’ve spoken too soon and an absolute peach of a backhand cuts a swathe down the line and gives Australia’s golden girl the advantage. Back to deuce. Advantage Kenin. Deuce. Advantage Kenin. Hold.
First set: Barty* 3-2 Kenin (* denotes server): Another backhand unforced error from the Australian here, but we’ll forgive her given it’s sandwiched between four aces. Enough said.
First set: Barty 2-2 Kenin* (* denotes server): Barty begins as the aggressor, pumping that forehand repeatedly across court before walloping another errant backhand long. Kenin is up 40-0 before she knows it and takes the risk by going for the sliced dropshot. Barty races into the net and her challenger responds with a lovely lob straight over her head.
First set: Barty* 2-1 Kenin (* denotes server): Still on serve here as Barty holds to love. She kicks off with two consecutive aces, cool as you like, followed by a forehand down the line that’s heavy on the top spin and sneaky on the direction.
First set: Barty 1-1 Kenin* (* denotes server): Two unforced errors from Barty allow Kenin to take control of this game but the American dispatches one of her own off her forehand to make it 30-30. Two more unforced backhand errors later and Kenin holds.
First set: Barty* 1-0 Kenin (* denotes server): Barty’s first service game is safely negotiated. She takes her time to get set and puts away a regulation smash from the net. Up 40-15, she serves a fault and then lands a shot out off her second. But Kenin does the same on the following point.
Weather: The forecast is a maximum 39 degrees at Melbourne Arena, which apparently makes it the hottest day of the tournament yet. Will the roof be put up at some point during this contest.
Barty gets a big cheer from the home crowd, featuring some serious sporting royalty in Cathy Freeman. Australia’s most celebrated Indigenous athlete is clearly a big fan of Barty, a proud Ngaragu woman.
“I can confidently say on behalf of Aussies and particularly the Indigenous community we’re very proud of her,” Freeman said at Thursday’s Inspirational Lunch. “I think the impact that she can have on everybody but particularly young girls is quite profound. Her achievements and her story will get onto the psyche and into the blood of so many young girls around not just Australia, but the world, it’s very cool. She’s an amazing role model. She seems to have a really good head on her shoulders, really community-minded, not too overawed by the success she’s having – it’s wonderful.”
Head to head: Barty owns a 4-1 career record over Kenin, but they’ve split their past two meetings at Toronto and Wuhan. Sam Groth is on Nine expecting there to be nerves at both ends of the court.
John McEnroe, of Margaret Court protest fame, believes Barty has the edge over Kevin because “she’s got more variety than any other players”.
“She drives them a little crazy, unsettles them. They don’t know quite what to do,” McEnroe told the Nine Network. “She uses that slice great, she’s a very good volleyer, having played a lot of doubles … she’s got a sneaky big serve for someone who’s not very tall.
“Perspective has helped her. Her stepping away from the game when she was younger, a bit overwhelmed I guess by the attention and the expectation. She’s come back a far better player. She’s handled it pretty darn well.”
It’s already been a day of days for Australia on Rod Laver Arena, where Max Purcell and Luke Saville have beaten Ivan Dodig and Filip Polášek in three sets and are into the men’s doubles final.
Go one step further and the pair will become the first all-Australian team to win the doubles since the days of the Woodies. Quite something for the wildcards.
Greetings everyone and welcome to live coverage of the women’s singles semi-finals at the Australian Open. And what a treat we’re in for, with world No 1 and local hero Ash Barty facing American Sofia Kenin on her mission to become the first Australian woman to contest her home grand slam final for 40 years.
The last to achieve such a feat was Wendy Turnbull back in 1980. Some perspective, for you all. That was the year Evonne Goolagong Cawley won the last of her seven grand slams at Wimbledon, the year a dingo stole baby Azaria Chamberlain, and when the late Malcolm Fraser was in office and so was Dame Edna Everage’s “wisteria hue” hair.
Most pertinently, though, it was 16 years before Barty was born. No pressure, as they say. The 23-year-old Queenslander has already made history at this tournament, having become the first Australian woman since Turnbull in 1984 to make the semi-finals after Tuesday’s straight-sets defeat of two-time major champion Petra Kvitová.
The reigning French Open champion has never ventured this deep into the draw before, and could be on a final collision course with Simona Halep, the only player in either draw yet to lose a set this fortnight, should the world No 3 see off world No 32 Garbiñe Muguruza in the second semi-final later this afternoon.
But first there’s the small matter of 21-year-old Kenin, the world No 14 unexpectedly carrying the weight of her own nation as the only American of either gender still left in the draw.
While the attention was on Serena and Venus Williams and fast-rising 15-year-old Coco Gauff, Kenin was quietly and improbably ploughing her way through a star-studded quarter of the draw, bettering Gauff in the fourth round and then unseeded Tunisian Ons Jabeur in the quarter-finals.
Both players boast well-balanced games and like to dictate play so this should be a belter.
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