Maria Sakkari will face Anett Kontaveit in what seems set to be an enthralling top-10 clash in the final of the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy.

Sakkari, the top seed in the tournament, had to go the distance against Irina-Camelia Begu, with the world number seven eventually prevailing 6-4 6-7 (4-7) 6-4.

That victory took Sakkari three hours and four minutes, as she had to fight back from a break down in the deciding set.

However, she is now into a fourth singles final of her career and has gone one better than her previous best run at St Petersburg, which came in 2020 when she reached the semi-finals.

"It was a very tough match. I think Begu played really, really well," Sakkari said.

"The level of the match was super high. I had to come up with some very tough shots and very physical tennis, but I'm very glad I did it, and I'm super excited to be in the final here."

Second seed Kontaveit awaits in Sunday's final, and the Estonian world number nine should be much fresher after only needing an hour and 11 minutes to see off Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 6-4.

Kontaveit has remarkably now won 19 matches in a row indoors in the longest such sequence since Justine Henin celebrated 22 consecutive victories between 2007 and 2010.

"It was a very competitive match. I really had to bring very good energy to come through on top today," Kontaveit said.

"She's a very aggressive player, so I had to be really ready for her big shots and just be as consistent and take my chances when I could. I felt like I did that really well today."

Sakkari and Kontaveit have met 12 times previously, with each player winning six times.

Maria Sakkari is handling the pressure of playing as top seed in a WTA Tour-level tournament for the first time, as she put herself to within one win of the final at the St Petersburg Ladies Open.

The Greek world number seven saw off a stern test from Elise Mertens on Friday, winning 7-6 (9-7) 6-2 to reach the semi-finals.

Sakkari had to salvage three set points in the opener, but eventually came out on top in the tie-break at the first time of asking.

Even with a comfortable lead in the second set, she failed to take the first three match points on offer, but got the fourth over the line to progress to her first semi-final of the season.

Sakkari, 26, previously reached the St Petersburg semi-final in 2020, where she lost to Elena Rybakina.

"When you're down in the score, you try to play more aggressively and [Elise] was playing really good in the last couple of games," Sakkari explained. 

"She came up with good serves and solid shots from the baseline. I just fought hard."

Next up

Irina-Camelia Begu stands in the way of Sakkari and a place in the final. 

The unseeded Romanian overcame two-time grand slam champion Petra Kvitova in the last 16 and defeated Tereza Martincova 6-4 6-2 in her last-eight tie.

It took just 85 minutes for Begu to secure her place in a fourth semi-final of her career at WTA 500 level or higher, but the first since 2017 in Moscow.

Kontaveit continues remarkable indoor run

World number nine Anett Kontaveit will face Jelena Ostapenko in the other semi-final, after ousting Tokyo 2020 gold medallist Belinda Bencic 7-6 (9-7) 6-2.

After her defeat of Bencic, second seed Kontaveit has now won 18 successive matches at indoor tournaments. She is the first player since Justine Henin in 2010 to go on such a streak.

Last year, the Estonian won titles in Ostrava, Moscow and Cluj-Napoca, which form part of this run.

Ostapenko, meanwhile, beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-3 to take her place in the last four. The 2017 French Open champion has only lost to top-10 players so far in 2022 (Paula Badosa and Barbora Krejcikova).

Petra Kvitova crashed out of the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy, but Jelena Ostapenko is safely through to the quarter-finals.

Two-time grand slam champion Kvitova was comfortably beaten in straight sets by Irina-Camelia Begu, with the Romanian winning 6-4 6-0 in just one hour and nine minutes.

The effectiveness of the first serve was the main difference-maker, with Begu winning 73.1 per cent of her first-serve points, while Kvitova – who has 28 singles titles to her name in contrast to her opponents' four – could only manage 50 per cent.

Begu was set to face the winner of Tereza Martincova's tie with Elena Rybakina, but the latter withdrew because of illness.

Seventh seed Ostapenko made light work of Andrea Petkovic as she beat the German 6-1 6-2 in just 58 minutes, helped largely by winning 85.3 per cent of her first serves, as well as saving all five of the break points she offered up.

Ostapenko has now won two of her four meetings with Petkovic and will next face Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who eased to a 6-2 6-3 victory over Jaqueline Cristian.

Maria Sakkari and Anett Kontaveit were among the big names to cruise through to the quarter-finals of the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy on Wednesday.

Top seed Sakkari faced Ekaterina Alexandrova in the second round and recorded a routine 6-2 6-4 triumph as she looks to bounce back from a fourth-round exit at the Australian Open. 

The Greek will next face a difficult contest with Elise Mertens, who needed three sets to see off the challenge presented by Petra Martic and seal a 6-4 3-6 6-2 success. 

Second seed Kontaveit recorded a 6-4 7-5 victory over Romania's Sorana Cirstea to set up a tantalising meeting with Belinda Bencic after the Swiss downed Kaja Juvan 6-1 7-6 (7-2). 

World number 12 Elena Rybakina, meanwhile, needed less than an hour to record a straight-sets victory over Varvara Gracheva, booking an encounter with Tereza Martincova in the round of 16. 

Maria Sakkari, Jelena Ostapenko and Petra Kvitova all avoided upsets as the seeds continued to march on at the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy on Tuesday.

Top seed Sakkari beat Anastasia Potapova 6-4 6-4 to advance to the last 16, while seventh seed Ostapenko was a 6-1 6-4 winner against wildcard Wang Xinyu.

Kvitova, the 2018 champion, took just an hour and nine minutes to see off qualifier Jule Niemeier 6-2 6-1, with the sixth seed and two-time former Wimbledon winner making a positive first appearance since being eliminated from the Australian Open in round one.

Sakkari, Ostapenko and Kvitova followed fellow seeds Anett Kontaveit, Belinda Bencic and Elise Mertens - winners on Monday - in avoiding an early exit.

However, number four seed and home favourite Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was forced to withdraw from the competition on Tuesday due to a knee problem.

Bernarda Pera replaced the Russian in the main draw and fell 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 to Jaqueline Cristian, who will next face Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

That is after Sasnovich held firm to beat Magda Linette 7-5 4-6 6-4 in a tight contest, with a decisive break in the fifth game of the third set seeing her through.

Peng Shuai's recent interview with French news outlet L'Equipe "does not alleviate any of our concerns", WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon has said.

In November, Peng posted claims on Chinese social media site Weibo that she had been sexually assaulted by the former Chinese vice-premier, before disappearing from public view and later denying making the allegations in a video interview posted by a Singaporean Chinese-language newspaper.

The situation led to widespread concern for Peng's wellbeing, initiating the #WhereIsPengShuai campaign, while the WTA went as far as suspending Chinese tennis tournaments.

Peng spoke to L'Equipe from Beijing, where the Winter Olympics are being hosted, and insisted there was no reason for concern.

"Sexual assault? I never said anyone had sexually assaulted me in any way," Peng said.

"There was a huge misunderstanding in the outside world following this post. I don't want the meaning of this post to be twisted anymore. And I don't want any further media hype around it."

In a statement posted on the WTA's official website, Simon said he was not convinced by Peng's interview and reiterated his call for a formal investigation to be undertaken into her initial claims.

"It's always good to see Peng Shuai, whether in an interview or attending the Olympic Games," Simon said in a statement published on the WTA's official website.

"However, her recent in-person interview does not alleviate any of our concerns about her initial post from November 2. To reiterate our view, Peng took a bold step in publicly coming forth with the accusation that she was sexually assaulted by a senior Chinese government leader.

"As we would do with any of our players globally, we have called for a formal investigation into the allegations by the appropriate authorities and an opportunity for the WTA to meet with Peng – privately – to discuss her situation.

"We continue to hold firm on our position and our thoughts remain with Peng Shuai."

Seeds Anett Kontaveit, Belinda Bencic and Elise Mertens all came through their first round matches at the St Petersburg Ladies Trophy on Monday.

Eighth seed Mertens came back from a break down in the deciding set to beat Alize Cornet 3-6 6-2 6-4.

Mertens, who had not beaten Cornet since 2018, will face either Petra Martic or Kamilla Rakhimova in the next round as she bids to reach her first quarter-final of 2022.

"It was a very tight match," Mertens said. "It could go either way, it was a battle. It's always difficult against her but I just kept fighting.

"I think I raised my level a little bit in the second and third sets. I stepped more into the court, the service was a bit better and I ran better."

Second seed Kontaveit needed three sets to get past Jil Teichmann, ultimately prevailing 6-3 1-6 6-3, while number five seed Belinda Bencic squeezed past Veronika Kudermetova 6-2 4-6 7-6 (7-5).

In Monday's other game, Ekaterina Alexandrova defeated Camila Giorgi 6-2 1-6 6-2.

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai has spoken to an international mainstream outlet for the first time since allegedly going missing after making claims of sexual assault by a senior Chinese politician.

In November, Peng posted claims on Chinese social media Weibo that she had been sexually assaulted by former Chinese vice-premier, before disappearing from public view and later denying making the allegations in a video interview posted by a Singaporean Chinese-language newspaper.

The situation led to widespread concern for Peng's wellbeing, initiating the #WhereIsPengShuai campaign, while the WTA went as far as suspending Chinese tennis tournaments.

Peng spoke to French outlet L'Equipe from Beijing, where the Winter Olympics are being hosted, alongside the chief of staff of the Chinese Olympic Committee Wang Kan, where she insisted there was no reason for concern.

“I don’t think I was aware of it all [global interest] because I don’t watch the news from foreign media much,” Peng said. “I can’t read in English but I heard about it. I never thought there’d be such worry, though, and I’d like to know why was that the case?”

The former world number 14 again denied making the sexual assault allegation in the first place.

“Sexual assault? I never said anyone had sexually assaulted me in any way,” Peng said. “There was a huge misunderstanding in the outside world following this post. I don’t want the meaning of this post to be twisted anymore. And I don’t want any further media hype around it.

“I never disappeared. Everyone could see me. I never disappeared. It’s just that many people, like my friends or people from the IOC messaged me, and it was simply impossible to answer so many messages. But I’ve been always in close contact with my close friends.

“I talked to them, I answered their emails, I also talked with the WTA... But at the end of the year, the communication IT system of their website was changed and many players had difficulties logging in. But my colleagues and I always stayed in touch.

"That’s why I don’t know why the news I had disappeared spread."

The Chinese state media released photos, emails and videos of Peng late last year although many suspected they were staged, thus concerns about her wellbeing will remain despite her latest interview.

Peng also spoke about WTA president Steve Simon's decision to suspend Chinese tennis tournaments, revealing she contacted him directly after it was announced as she felt the situation was "a bit exaggerated".

“I didn’t choose anything. Like everyone, like you, I saw the statement on the official WTA website,” Peng said.

“It was very unusual for me, why would I need psychological assistance or that sort of thing? I didn’t know how I should figure it out. But if the WTA psychologists couldn’t reach me and thought that I had disappeared, I think that’s a bit exaggerated. So after reading this statement, I responded to WTA president Steve Simon myself.

“Several copies were sent, and these emails I wrote myself. This is my personal statement. The same evening, I also sent it by WeChat to my colleagues in the players’ department in order to personally confirm that I was the author of the messages sent from my work email.”

Olympics chief Thomas Bach has confirmed he will meet with tennis star Peng Shuai during the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

There has been global concern expressed for the safety, whereabouts and wellbeing of Chinese player Peng, who has competed at three summer Olympic Games.

In December, Peng denied making an accusation of sexual assault against a Chinese government official, saying there had been "a lot of misunderstandings" about a post on social media in November.

That post on her Weibo account, since removed, contained sexual assault allegations against Zhang Gaoli, the ex-vice premier and member of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee.

Amid concerns for Peng after the accusation, the head of the women's tennis tour, WTA chairman Steve Simon, said he struggled to believe she had sent him an email that claimed the allegations were false and that she was safely at home.

The WTA has since suspended all its tournaments in China.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Bach said in a news conference on the eve of the Winter Olympics opening ceremony that 36-year-old Peng was living in Beijing, and that she claimed to be allowed to move freely. He said the IOC would support Peng if she considered an "inquiry" into her circumstances necessary.

Bach's stance throughout has been that "quiet diplomacy" is required, and he did not deviate from that on Thursday. He explained Peng would enter the "closed loop" of the Games, which has been designed to separate the Olympics from the rest of Beijing during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"The answer is, yes, we will have the meeting," Bach said, when the issue was raised in a news conference.

"I'm very happy and grateful to Peng Shuai that she will enter, in order to have this meeting, because she also wanted to have this. We discussed it in November."

Bach said the IOC had previously made contact with Peng "to get to know where she is and as far as possible how she is". He has already spoken to Peng via video link.

"What better way than to have a personal meeting," he added. "This is why already in the first meeting, I said I want to meet personally once I arrive in China, and this will happen.

"It is also not only a sign of respect, but a necessity to respect her and then to listen to her and how she sees the situation, how she wants to live her life. This is what we are step by step trying to find out.

"If she wants to have an inquiry, of course we would also support her in this, but it must be her decision. It's her life; it's her allegations. We have heard the allegations, and we have heard the withdrawal.

"We will have this personal meeting and there we will continue this conversation, and we will know better about her physical integrity and her mental state when we can meet in person. This was the objective of this initiative from the very beginning.

"We say it publicly we have this information, but so far only by video conference. This cannot replace the personal contact and appearance.

"We know from her explanations during these video conferences that she is living here, in Beijing. She's reporting she can move freely, she's spending time with her family and friends, and now we will be able to do the next step in a personal meeting to convince us of her wellbeing and her state of mind."

Danielle Collins was in optimistic mood despite losing to Ash Barty in straight sets in Saturday's Australian Open final at Melbourne Park.

Barty was made to work for it by unlikely finalist Collins and had to come from 5-1 down in the second set to prevail 6-3 7-6 (7-2) on Rod Laver Arena.

Collins had raced to within one game of taking the second set, only for Barty to rally back with a quite sensational fightback that ended with tie-break success to secure the trophy.

At a media conference following the final, Collins said she was happy with her efforts against Barty and declared it a "fun battle".

"Not the result that I wanted obviously tonight, but I gave it my best effort," the American told reporters. "I did everything that I could.

"I was pushed to the max, and I gave myself a chance there in the end. Unfortunately, it didn't go my way, but I did everything I could, and that's all you can do at the end of the day.

"It was a great event for me. [I] accomplished some new things, learned a lot of new things. I certainly have some areas to improve, which is a good thing. Yeah, [I] played against a great competitor tonight, and it was a fun battle."

Barty won in front of a passionate home crowd, and Collins explained where in particular she had struggled against her.

"I think she started to push me back in the court a little bit more," Collins added. "I was having some issues really being able to fully rotate on some of my shots to be able to get my shots to where I needed them to be.

"It was really unfortunate, but I did everything I could, tried to push through it. Fell short. She definitely came up with some great shots in some of those big moments, especially with her serving and pushing me back in the court."

The 28-year-old – who hit the same number of unforced errors as Barty (22), but only 17 winners to the Australian's 30 – also had further words of gratitude for her mentor Marty Schneider, whom she also thanked along with her boyfriend in her post-match comments on court.

"We were joking about some tournaments that he had attended with me," she added. "25K in Orlando where I did not have the best performance, and thinking about the way that I'm playing now versus then, it seems like a lifetime ago, but it really wasn't that long ago.

"Other situations that I was in playing some of those smaller tournaments and facing challenges and bumps in the road and how I used to go about things and think about things, how clueless I was sometimes and how much I have learned and grown from those moments.

"Now we can kind of look back and laugh, but during those moments we had some tough conversations. Marty was always on call for all of those.

"I think we've shared some incredible memories over the years, but especially this week to see all of those baby steps come together now and being on the biggest stage in the world, it's just been so special."

Ash Barty said she focused on enjoying herself to avoid getting hampered by the pressure and expectation of delivering an Australian Open title.

The 25-year-old ended Australia's 44-year wait for a singles champion in Melbourne by beating Danielle Collins 6-3 7-6 (7-2) on Saturday.

World number one Barty claimed her third grand slam title, landing the trophy without dropping a set.

All the talk at the tournament focused on Barty ending Australia's drought, but the reigning Wimbledon champion said her ability to just enjoy herself was key.

"I think the expectation was that I would always come out and give my best, and that's all I've ever done," she told a news conference.

"I have been close before, but I think now that we've been able to achieve this, I think you guys don't need to talk about it anymore.

"You were the ones who added fuel to the fire, because for us it was just the same processes and the same enjoyment, regardless of where we're playing in the world, what round it is. That has no impact on how much I enjoy my tennis and go out there or how much I try and compete.

"I think it's being able to really simplify that and then just come out and enjoy it. I mean, this fortnight, seven times I got to walk out onto a beautiful court with incredible fans and try and do the best I can do, and that's all I could ask of myself.

"Now to be able to have this part of my dream kind of achieved is amazing, and I think I have to really understand that that came from the processes that we put in with my team and the people that are around me, because without them, I wouldn't be half the person that I am."

Barty came from 5-1 down in the second set to overcome Collins, sealing her victory with a forehand cross-court passing winner.

After a successful fortnight, Barty screamed in delight to celebrate her win.

"It was a little bit surreal. I think I didn't quite know what to do or what to feel, and I think just being able to let out a little bit of emotion, which is a little bit unusual for me, and I think being able to celebrate with everyone who was there in the crowd, the energy was incredible tonight," she said.

"I think being able to understand how much work my team and I have done behind the scenes and over the last few years, to get to this point to be able to have this opportunity was really special.

"I think it just kind of all came out at once, and yeah, it was a really, really special moment."

Ash Barty can still get better but she will not win the US Open unless a change that is out of her hands is made, according to coach Craig Tyzzer.

Barty became the first local in 44 years to win the Australian Open, beating Danielle Collins 6-3 7-6 (7-2) in the final on Saturday.

The 25-year-old dealt with the pressure and expectation in Melbourne to win her third grand slam title.

But Tyzzer said there was still growth left in Barty, who came from 5-1 down in the second set against Collins.

"There's still areas we continue to work on still, she's got to get better at. I'm not going to tell what you they are because that's giving away a few too many secrets. But there's still room for improvement," he told a news conference.

"I think what she's done really well is just she's enjoyed it. She's been really composed and enjoyed playing. Like tonight, we knew what the challenges were going to be, like Danielle can just blow you off the court at times. So she was looking forward to that challenge, 'Okay, how do I figure out how to beat this girl who can just hit you into the corners and hurt you every time you drop it short?'

"I think for her that's the best part. She's enjoying playing, enjoying the challenges. There's still areas we'll work on with her game. I probably don't have to do too much with her serve now. It seems to be working really well.

"But, yeah, you're always looking for areas to get better."

Barty is the second active women's player to have won a grand slam on all three surfaces, joining Serena Williams.

But Barty's chances of completing a career Grand Slam by winning the US Open rely on something out of her control – changing the balls.

"The US Open really needs to change the ball for the girls, the fact they still use a different ball for guys and girls. It's a terrible ball for someone like Ash," Tyzzer said.

"Even in Cincinnati when they use the US Open ball outside she could actually get some loft out of the court, but the ball itself is so light. It was the only tournament last year and really for two years where she uses a gut racquet, but I had to change her to a poly just to get any sort of control of the ball.

"If they keep that ball the same, no one like Ash will win that tournament. So I think you see the result at the US Open, it was two players who, you go, 'Wow, that was, two different players won that?' There's no surprise when the ball is like it is. And I don't know the reason why. It's the only tournament that has separate balls for the guys and girls. So if they don't change the balls, she won't win the US Open."

Ash Barty was staring at a nervy deciding set in the Australian Open final before she turned the second on its head to end the locals' drought.

Barty became the first local Australian Open singles champion in 44 years by beating Danielle Collins 6-3 7-6 (7-2) on Saturday.

Such a scoreline looked unlikely when Barty fell 5-1 behind in the second set in front of an electric Rod Laver Arena crowd.

But, as she had all tournament despite the pressure and expectations, Barty stayed calm. She turned it around, riding a wave of momentum to seal victory in straight sets.

From Collins' 5-1 lead, Barty hit 13 winners and just four unforced errors. Collins was three and nine respectively. But what really hurt the American was making just three of 12 first serves in the two games she was broken in.

Stats Perform takes a closer look at what happened, with Collins two points away from forcing a third set on three separate occasions.

Collins serving at 6-3 1-5
Barty had served two double faults in the previous game to open the door widely to Collins. After the American missed a first serve, a loud cheer from the crowd was met by a disapproving finger wag from Barty, who followed that up with a forehand winner. Still, Collins found herself two points from the set at 30-30. But she sent a backhand well long before Barty forced another error with a powerful return. Collins made one of six first serves in the game.

Barty serving at 6-3 2-5
Barty raced into a 40-0 lead and, while Collins won the next two points, a long forehand helped her hold, putting pressure on the American.

Collins serving at 6-3 3-5
Collins again found herself two points from the set, leading 30-0. The response from Barty was phenomenal. Barty crushed a forehand return winner down the line before another forehand winner caught the back of the line to draw the game level at 30-30. Another big forehand return set up break point before Collins netted a backhand.

Barty serving at 6-3 4-5
Barty recovered from 0-15 to hold, with two big serves doing the damage, and Collins' momentum was well and truly gone.

Collins serving at 6-3 5-5
On the back of making four of five first serves, Collins steadied to end Barty's run of four straight games.

Barty serving at 6-3 5-6
For the third time, Collins found herself two points away from winning the set, with Barty in a 15-30 hole. But Barty came up big, delivering three consecutive unreturnable serves to force a tie-break.

Tie-break
Collins started the tie-break with a forehand that flew well long then returned a serve well long to fall 2-0 behind. That freed Barty up, the Australian crushing back-to-back winners, including a great smash, to open up a 4-0 lead she would not relinquish. Collins put a backhand return off a Barty second serve halfway up the net to fall 5-1 behind. A forehand cross-court passing shot winner sealed Barty's victory.

Ash Barty was "a little stumped" after she beat Danielle Collins to claim her maiden Australian Open title.

The world number one had to come from 5-1 down in the second set to defeat her American opponent – a first-time grand slam finalist – 6-3 7-6 (7-2) on Rod Laver Arena.

Buoyed on by a partisan home crowd in Melbourne, Barty made light work of a drained Collins in the tie-break to become the first Australian since 1978 to win the men's or women's singles in the season's first major.

Barty is also the first woman to win her home grand slam since Sloane Stephens triumphed in the 2017 US Open, and the first woman since Serena Williams in 2015 to win the Australian Open while ranked number one.

The 25-year-old has won 11 straight matches in 2022 and now has three grand slam titles to her name, after winning the French Open in 2019 and Wimbledon in 2021. 

She is the first Australian Open Women's singles winner with 30 or fewer games dropped on her way to secure the title since Mary Pierce in 1995.

"I'm a little stumped here," Barty said at the on-court presentation.

"I would love to thank everyone who does so much work behind the scenes. This last couple of years has been extraordinarily tough for everyone.

"It takes a really big village to put on an event like this. I think this tournament has been one of my favourite experiences.

"To my team... wow. I'm so lucky to have so many people here that love me, support me, my mum, dad and sisters here, so happy that they could come down here today.

"I'm an incredibly fortunate and lucky girl to have so much love in my corner. We did it all together. Nobody's changed from my team, you guys are the best in the business, I can't thank you enough for all the time and love you put into me.

"As an Aussie, the most important thing is to share this with so many people and this crowd is one of the most fun I've ever played in front of.

"You guys relaxed me, forced me to play my best tennis. Against a champion like Danielle, I knew I had to bring that today. Thanks for all your love and support the last couple of weeks.

"This is just a dream come true for me, and I'm so proud to be an Aussie."

Collins will be heading into the top 10 for the first time in her career after her run in Melbourne. The 28-year-old looked primed to take the match to a decider when she raced ahead in the second set, before Barty's sensational comeback.

"Congratulations to Danielle and your team, it's been an amazing fortnight for you," Barty told the runner-up.

"You're in the top 10 and that's absolutely where you belong. I know you'll be fighting for many more of these in the future."

Collins, who was aiming for a third career singles title on the WTA Tour, is the seventh different American player to reach the final of the women's singles at the Australian Open since the turn of the century.

She beat Barty in Adelaide in 2021 but has now lost four of their five meetings in total.

"Well, first, I owe a big congratulations to Ash, on a phenomenal two weeks here, a really phenomenal couple of years," the 28-year-old said.

"It's been tremendous to watch her climb her way up the rankings all the way to number one and live out her dream.

"I really admire you as the player that you are, the variety of your game – hopefully I can implement some of that into mine."

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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