Todd Woodbridge says Ash Barty has “ticked all the boxes” as she prepares for her first Grand Slam semifinal.
“She’s ready,” is the view of 22-time Grand Slam champion Todd Woodbridge as fellow Aussie Ash Barty prepares for her first Grand Slam singles semifinal on Friday.
No.8 seed Barty is through to the last four at the French Open for the loss of just one set – she takes on unseed American Amanda Anisimova at 7:00 pm AEST on Friday.
The Australian is the highest-ranked of the four remaining women, with Britain’s Johanna Konta (world No.26) taking on Czech 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova (world No.38) in the other semifinal.
“When you look at ticking boxes and building the repertoire to win majors, Ash has been ticking them consistently,” said Woodbridge.
“I thought Madison Keys played pretty well in the quarterfinal but Ash has started to use her forehand to really dictate the terms of a rally, and get her opponent moving and out of positon so they can’t strike as hard as they want to.
“Feels like just yesterday that we started, jumped on the plane to come over here to start again.
“So much has happened in between.”
Ash Barty reflects on her 3-year journey to her 1st Slam semifinal and impending Top 5 debut. #RG19
— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) June 6, 2019
“That stood out in the quarterfinal and I think she’s going to have to do the same against Anisimova – hit a lot of short, heavy forehands, drive that ball deep and hard through the line.
“All through the tournament her point structure has been very deliberate and tactically astute. I think that has stood out and it comes with the confidence that you have time on the ball, you don’t feel panicked.”
Woodbridge picked Barty as a dark horse for the title before the tournament, and has been increasingly convinced of her chances.
“I think a key moment was the third set against Sofia Kenin in the fourth round,” he said.
“If she’s going to win majors, anywhere, she needed to win that set. When you get those windows of opportunity, you need to grab them, because if not they can become scars. She goes out and wins that set 6-0, and you think, ‘She’s ready.’
“A previous example was in Melbourne against Maria Sharapova, another box ticked against a star player with the pressure of the home crowd. In March, Miami – a two-week tournament, top players, beats the ones she has to.
“There’s no reason when you look at it not to think, ‘She’s ready.’”
Barty’s all-court game has transferred impressively to the clay this year, with her sliced backhand and impressive movement backed up by some of the best serve stats in the game.
“What I’m very impressed with is the speed and the aces because she’s 5ft 5ins and you don’t expect that,” said Woodbridge.
“Again, that’s a confidence thing over the last six months. If she can keep those stats over the next couple of matches, it pretty much makes her favourite.
“If she’s going to win she needs to take it on and be aggressive and positive with her tactics, not get tentative and steer a little bit. That’s why the fourth round was so important – Kenin took over that match, and Ash took it back.”
If her game is in good shape, the real test might be handling the nerves and expectation that come with a major title within sight.
Barty’s semifinal will have a slightly different atmosphere following a week of rain delays that sees the match starting earlier than usual, and away from the main stadium court.
“There’s that moment when you’re getting ready to walk out on court, and this might be a little easier as it’s on Lenglen and not Chatrier, so it’s actually a very different feel.
“There’s a moment when you think, ‘All these people are here to watch me, this is big time.’ That thought passes through your head and you have to get rid of it and get into match mode.
“I don’t care who you are, I think you can’t help thinking about that.”