Ashleigh Barty has come a long way since joining Roland Garros against Madison Keys two years ago when she was humiliated in the first round by the Americans 6: 3, 6: 2. On Thursday she atoned for this result – earning her first place in a Grand Slam semi-final – with a 6: 3, 7: 5 win over Keys.
"The whole game was very close." Said Barty. "I took my only chance that I got in the first set, it's just unbelievable, I feel like I played great tennis."
She had to play great because Keys did not show any bad performance at all. Keys got her big serve and a huge punch to save her – she hit eight aces over the two sets – while Barty relies on her slice and net loads to disrupt the rhythm of her opponents. Barty's serve was a staple on Thursday, as she did not play a serve until she had her first chance to play the match 5: 4.
Barty was surprised when she reached her first big semifinal on clay, but her netplay still works with the slow surface. She exerted relentless pressure on the American and finished the game 1
"It was amazing that I learned something about clay ping-pong every day," said the 23-year-old, who also won the Rome double title. "I enjoyed it, I loved it."
Barty and Keys have only played twice, most recently in the Fed Cup earlier this year, with the Aussie winning handsomely. Barty was ranked 8th in the world ranking list at this Roland Garros Showdown. However, Keys, as a 2017 US Open finalist and two-time major semifinalist, has more experience in the second week of the slams.
The 23-year-old Australian has had a memorable season so far, with a final run in Sydney, a quarter-final in Melbourne and her fourth and biggest career singles title in Miami. It's her first time in the top 10, but there's little doubt she belongs there. And now she can say with confidence that she belongs to a Grand Slam semi-final.
She meets 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova after teen-ousted defending champion Simona Halep clinched her victory just minutes before Barty.
"She played amazing tennis," Barty said. "To reach the semi-finals of a slam, you have to do the right things, you beat who you had to beat, it's an exciting opportunity for both of us and I'm sure we'll enjoy it tomorrow."