Australian Open: Brilliant, businesslike Barty a class above

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Ash Barty is a class above her peers right now – and 2022 is hers to dominate even further on the grand slam stage.

Barty ended Australia's wait for a singles champion in Melbourne after a 6-3 7-6 (7-2) win over Danielle Collins in the final on Saturday.

The world number one dealt with the pressure of such high expectations to become the first local Australian Open singles champion in 44 years.

Barty had already ended another drought – becoming the first Australian women's singles finalist in 42 years.

The composure she showed during that semi-final win over Madison Keys was again prevalent in the decider against Collins, who predictably threatened and looked certain to force a deciding set on Rod Laver Arena.

Despite the expectations, there was a constant sense of calm and almost inevitability to Barty's success in Melbourne in 2022.

In every moment, Barty seemed unfazed by everything around her, in a zone of her own, even at 5-1 down in the second set in front of an electric home crowd. Barty would have been excused for some panic, the fear of letting down the masses awaiting and anticipating a local Australian Open singles champion. But she didn't, and her calmness was mostly mirrored by those in the stands, who eventually got what they came for.

And Barty's confidence was well-founded. She was far too good for each of her opponents, losing just 21 games on her way to the decider before facing a tougher test against Collins.

Barty became the second active women's singles player to win a grand slam on every surface after adding the Australian Open to her 2019 French Open and 2021 Wimbledon titles, joining the great Serena Williams.

Her coach, Craig Tyzzer, warned on Australia Day that Barty had "played better at times" in her career. But there was a steely resolve about Barty, whose focus and concentration was even more impenetrable than her serve throughout the fortnight. The emotions were released after championship point was converted with a cross-court forehand pass.

The fact there could be more to come from Barty is a warning to the rest of the WTA Tour. That she managed all the pressure and expectation to win an Australian Open without dropping a set says a lot.

"She seems very focused, but she's playing very within herself, and it just seems like everything is really working for her right now without playing unbelievable tennis for her," said Keys after being crushed in the last four. "I think the rest of us are watching it thinking, 'Wow, this is incredible', but when you watch her, she seems completely in control of all of it."

Conquered by Barty in the quarter-finals, Jessica Pegula admitted the Australian was simply better than everyone else.

"Just to do it two out of three sets for somebody to beat her is tough because she just makes you play so much and does everything so well," she said. "Yeah, I think she's definitely living in everyone's head a little bit. I don't think anyone is going to feel great going out to play her because they know they have to play really well."

Barty has made history and delivered one of the iconic moments in Australian sport. She is a step above her opponents right now, and more history could await in 2022.

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