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.
Australian Associated Press
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