Australia's Ashleigh Barty is a frontrunner! / Picture Credit: Tim Goode/PA Wire/PA Images
Australia's Ashleigh Barty is a frontrunner! / Picture Credit: Tim Goode/PA Wire/PA Images

The season-opening Grand Slam is almost drawing to a close with just a few games left to be played before the winners hold their trophies aloft with smiles plastered across their faces.

Although the men’s final is yet to be decided as the two semi matches are set to be played tomorrow (January 28th, 2022), it’s already gone down to the last two in the women’s competition.

World No 1 Ashleigh Barty will face American Danielle Collins in the women’s singles final on Saturday.

If successful, this will be Barty’s first taste of glory at her home Grand Slam as she’s previously only ever made it to the semi-finals at the Australian Open, but now she’s one step closer to achieving her dream.

The Wimbledon champion only needed 62 minutes to defeat Madison Keys 6-1, 6-3 for a record-breaking place in the final – she’s the first Australian women to make it to the final in 42 years since Wendy Turnbull in 1980, and she’s relishing it.

Ashleigh Barty competing on day nine of the Nature Valley Classic 2019 / Picture Credit: Tim Goode/PA Wire/PA Images
Ashleigh Barty competing on day nine of the Nature Valley Classic 2019 / Picture Credit: Tim Goode/PA Wire/PA Images

After the match the 25-year-old exclaimed: “I love this tournament and I love coming out here and playing in Australia.

“As an Aussie, we’re especially spoiled that we get to be a Grand Slam nation and we get to play at home, in our own back yard.

“I’m 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.”

Former cricketer Barty was the undisputed favourite before even stepping foot into Melbourne Park at the start of the tournament, but first she’ll have to face opponent Collins who shouldn’t be overlooked.

The American thrashed seventh seed Iga Swiatek 6-4, 6-1 for her place in the final, despite undergoing surgery for endometriosis in April, and is proud of what she’s achieved in less than a year.

“It feels amazing,” the world No 30 said during her on-court interview after her semi-final match.

“It’s been such a journey and it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s incredible to be on this stage and especially with the health challenges, I’m just so grateful.

“I couldn’t be happier.”

There is no doubt Barty will be the critics and fan favourite, given she’ll be in front of a home crowd despite there only being 50% capacity being let it, but Collins showed in her semi-final match that she can take on the high rankers and win.

We’ll only find out on Saturday (January 29th, 2022) when the winner of the women’s Australian Open is crowned.

Despite everything which overshadowed this tournament before play started, it can definitely be said that now the 2022 tennis season is well and truly underway.

Words by Lucy Roberts for Female First, who you can follow on Twitter, @Lucy_Roberts_72.

RELATED: Why Emma Raducanu doesn't need to be perfect to be a role model in 2022