Ashleigh Barty always had ‘game for the hard court’ as Australian Open bid heats up

The world number one is attempting to add an Australian Open title to previous grand slam wins at Wimbledon and Roland Garros

<p>Ashleigh Barty is all smiles after beating Jessica Pegula (Hamish Blair/AP)</p>

Ashleigh Barty is all smiles after beating Jessica Pegula (Hamish Blair/AP)

Former Australian world number one Pat Rafter said Ashleigh Barty's game is tailor made for grass but he has always believed the Wimbledon champion would prosper on a fast-paced hard court.

After the women's number one claimed the Wimbledon title last year, her coach Craig Tyzzer said he also thought Barty's first Grand Slam would come on a hard court in either Melbourne or New York.

The 25-year-old, who also won the French Open on clay, will play Madison Keys on Thursday in the Melbourne Park semi-finals as she continues her bid to become the first local since Chris O'Neil in 1978 to win the Australian Open.

Rafter, a two-time US Open champion, occasionally hits with Barty at his home in the surfing hamlet of Byron Bay in New South Wales and the 49-year-old said the variety of Barty's shots sets her apart from her rivals.

"I thought she had a pretty good game for the hard court, especially a faster hard court," he told Reuters.

"But what she does have is a set of skills a lot of girls don't have ... She's got good hands. She's able to change the pace and also adapt to really bad bounces and different things on the other surfaces.

"Obviously, she's got a tailor made game for grass, but grass is not like it was 30 years ago."

Barty has dropped just 17 games in five matches on Rod Laver Arena this year.

After defeating Jessica Pegula on Tuesday she noted that the hot and humid conditions were more similar to her home city of Brisbane than Melbourne.

The Queenslander would prefer to play matches in the hottest part of the day, when the court is faster.

But Tyzzer said the conditions this year were helping Barty because the court was retaining its warmth in the early evening, making it livelier.

"I think the heat in the court really helps. There's a bit more bounce. We train in that stuff pre-season. She loves that sort of weather," he said.

"It certainly helps her with those conditions. Even though she's been playing late, there's still heat in the court."

Tyzzer said Keys, a US Open finalist in 2017, presents a "huge challenge" to the Australian.

But he says Barty, who has won two of her three matches against the American, is yet to play her best tennis in the 2022 Australian Open despite the dominance she has displayed.

"It's still building and she's still got to keep working and being ready for every time she steps out there," he said.

"Obviously Maddie is going to be a huge challenge. (She is) such a powerful athlete and (has a) powerful game. Ash has got to be really switched on to be in a contest out there."

Reuters

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