Australian Open final: History beckons for Ashleigh Barty, but Danielle Collins can hurt her

Whichever way the Australian Open women's final goes, it will be a great sporting story.

The women's Australian Open title will be decided this weekend and it promises to be one of the most fascinating in years.

In one corner you have the world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty - the hometown sweetheart trying to be the first Australian women to win the tournament since the 1970s.

In the other corner you have a real Cinderella story, with Danielle Collins playing her first major final just months after major surgery for endometriosis.

It's one of those finals that will throw up a great story no matter who wins it.

When: Saturday, January 29, 08:30 GMT

Where: Melbourne Park, Melbourne (outdoor hard)

Watch: Eurosport

Head-to-head

These two have met just four times, with Barty winning three of them.

However, that only tells part of the story. Two of those wins were on clay, a very different surface to the hardcourt of Rod Laver Arena.

Of their previous two hardcourt clashes, they each have one win to their name. It is worth noting, though, that the last time they met - at Adelaide almost a year ago - it was Collins who came out on top in straight sets.

2019 - Madrid (Clay) Barty 6-1, 1-6, 6-1

2019 - French Open (Clay) Barty 7-5, 6-1

2020 - Adelaide (Hard) Barty 3-6, 6-1, 7-6

2021 - Adelaide (Hard) Collins 6-3, 6-4

They have also twice faced each other in doubles matches, with honours even.

Barty bidding for history

Ashleigh Barty in action

From the moment the Australian Open started, Barty has looked like a woman on a mission.

She has been phenomenally dialled in the whole time and is serving so well that no one is managing to break her, never mind beat her.

Indeed, Barty has reached the final without even dropping a set of tennis, which is incredibly impressive in a major.

Barty is a player who has every shot a player could dream of. Her backhand slice is particularly vicious and her second serve is arguably the best in the entire WTA.

They are not headline shots, but they are the kind of things that make her incredibly tough to beat.

Essentially, Barty is without question the most complete player on the WTA Tour.

If anything can get to her then it will be the pressure. She is the first Australian woman since Wendy Turnbull 42 years ago to get to the Australian Open final, and you have to go even further back to find a homegrown female winner.

That is going to bring enormous pressure of expectation, but if she can manage that, as she has so far, then the title looks very much hers to lose.

Collins' Cinderella story

Danielle Collins at Australian Open

Danielle Collins really is an inspirational story and she would make for a very popular Australian Open winner. Well, everywhere except Australia, at least.

Martina Hingis and Monica Seles were dominating the Tour at 17 years old, and Emma Raducanu won the US Open as an 18-year-old just last year, but Collins only actually turned pro at the age of 22.

That was due to coming through the US college system, and that means she has always been playing catch-up with her peers.

Last year she also underwent surgery for endometriosis, which is a further complication others didn't have to deal with. It is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb begins to grow in other places such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes, and it was something that was caused Collins "physical agony".

"This has been an ongoing issue for quite some time," Collins announced ahead of the surgery.

"Unfortunately it has been effecting my overall day to day life in a way that has caused too much physical agony, and is negatively impacting my ability to perform consistently.

"Off the court, being able to start a family one day is one of my biggest goals. This operation is important for many reasons."

So, for Collins to be back playing tennis at all is incredibly impressive, never mind reaching a maiden major final too. What it is not, though, is surprising. She has always been a fighter and doesn't even sit down between games, such is her intensity.

She will need to be at her absolute best to beat Barty, it must be said, but winning the match is not beyond her.

Collins does not possess Barty's variation but she will be capable of overpowering her. She also hits an incredibly flat ball, which could take a few shots out of Barty's arsenal if the Australian is not careful.

Previous meeting

Collins faced Barty at Adelaide 2 last year in the build-up to the delayed Australian Open and produced a very impressive win.

It is important to note that, due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, Barty was just easing herself back into tennis after a lengthy hiatus, but a win over the world No. 1 is always hard-earned.

Planet Sport prediction

Much as we all love a Cinderella story, it's hard to see Ashleigh Barty losing this one. History beckons and she is hitting the ball too well to fall short.

Collins is unlikely to make it easy for her and expect some eye-catching winners from the American and plenty of fight, but we'll go with Barty in two.

READ MORE: Rafa Nadal reaches sixth Australian Open final after seeing off Italy's Matteo Berrettini

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