G’day From Melbourne.
Ash Barty plays a different sport. It looks like tennis, it smells like tennis, but the stats sheet simply doesn’t add up. Can’t be tennis.
Case in point. Take a look at the forehand and backhand winners table below from the four players who competed in the semi-finals of the 2022 Australian Open. Three of them look similar. One of them is off. Way off. Especially that yellow box…
How in the world can Ash Barty – the world No. 1 – play 592 points on her way to the Australian Open final and only hit FOUR backhand winners? Must be a misprint. It’s not. I just went and looked at all four. Here’s how they went down…
- Rd 1 vs. Tsurenko. Serve +1 backhand SLICE down the line.
- Rd 4 vs. Anisimova. Serve +1 backhand TOPSPIN down the line.
- Rd 4 vs. Anisimova. Return +1 backhand SLICE cross court.
- Rd 4 vs. Anisimova. SLICE rally backhand crosscourt.
The truth of the matter is that winners mean very little to Barty. She does not chase them as the rest of the women’s tour does. The other three players in the table above all have double the amount of winners than Barty. What Barty cares about is reducing her exposure to errors. The table below proves it.
Barty’s winner count is low, and so is her error count. While everyone else is swinging for the fences, Barty continuously, monotonously puts the ball in play. Reduce the errors on her side of the court. Increase the errors on the other side of the court. One more victory and the title is hers.
Barty’s backhand is a fascinating shot that confounds opponents no end. She has her traditional double-handed drive backhand and then she also has what can only be described as one of the best (if not the best) shots on tour. Her ginsu backhand slice.
Against Madison Keys in the semi-final, Barty’s traditional double-handed backhand was mostly a non-factor. Including returns, she only hit it 14 times. She didn’t hit a winner and committed eight errors. Not that great at all.
Her backhand slice was a different story. She hit it 46 times. No winners, but Keys committed nine errors from it. Barty also committed 10 errors from it. Barty’s forehand was the star of the show in the semi, collecting 12 winners overall and dictating play from the back of the court.
Barty’s opponent in the final is American, Danielle Collins. The American has a big game. In fact, Iga Swiatek, her semi-final opponent, said that she had never received a ball off the ground that was hit that hard as against Collins.
But in this tournament, Barty has shown great resolve against players that crush the ball off the ground. Keys tried. Anisimova tried. Giorgi tried. They all came up well short.
Barty has won 58% (196/340) of her baseline points for the tournament. That’s insanely good! On the men’s side, Rafael Nadal is at 56% and Daniil Medvedev is at 51%. Collins has won 56% of her baseline points to the final. If she can win north of 50% against Barty, then that will be a victory in itself.
Looking forward to a great final!