On Saturday night in Melbourne, No. 1-ranked Ashleigh Barty will take on Danielle Collins in the Australian Open women's final. Barty has looked unflappable so far -- can she become the first Australian to win her home Slam in 44 years? Or will Collins pull off the upset? We asked our experts:
Will Ash Barty win the Australian Open?
Tom Hamilton: Barty has dropped just 21 games at this tournament, and has been broken twice. She is playing unbelievable tennis, and with having been world No. 1 for 112 weeks, this is her championship to lose. Although the thoughts of the 44-year wait and the subsequent pressure will inevitably sprinkle through her mind over the next 24 hours, she has the mentality and astonishing ability to close this tournament out.
Luke Jensen: Barty is an elite tennis talent at the top of her superpowers! A complete player from the mental, physical and tactical areas of the game. Mentally, Barty handles the pressure with a mature perspective that helps her maintain a relaxed relationship with the pressures of the moment. Physically, Barty can play the game she needs to control the exchanges that is modern professional power tennis. She has the ability to switch speeds from offense to defending any power shot that comes from the other side of the net, and then go from defending to offense with one swing. Tactically, with so many shots in her game, Barty seems to play the right shot at the right time, always having an answer for a move from her opponent.
Aish Kumar: Yes, at this point, I am certain that Ash Barty will win the title. What's impressive is her path to the final. It's almost like her three-set loss to Shelby Rogers in the third round of the US Open last year woke her up, and she decided she won't give up a single set in the next major she plays. She has dominated every match in the tournament, winning not just in straight sets, but never even letting it get to the tiebreaker. She's on a roll, and more importantly, she's not tired from having played long matches. She's in the best position possible to win her first Australian Open -- and what a story that will be for the 25-year-old world No. 1.
D'Arcy Maine: Please mark this response down as an emphatic yes. Other Australians have made the singles final during this multi-decade drought and didn't finish the job, but none of those players were Ash Barty.
Barty has drowned out all the noise and outsized expectations during this impressive run in Melbourne, and her level of play seems to be on another level than the rest of the draw. She's lost just 21 games in total during her first six matches and has yet to drop a set. She has long said winning Wimbledon was her childhood dream, and not only did she accomplish that in July, but she did it on the 50th anniversary of her hero and friend Evonne Goolagong's first victory at the All England Club. Now, knowing she can win when the pressure is at its highest and having embraced, as opposed to shied away from, the adoring Aussie crowd, Barty will make history on Saturday.
Jake Michaels: I think so, but it's certainly not going to be as straightforward as one might expect. There's no doubt Barty has played the best tennis of anyone at this tournament, but the pressure of winning your home Slam is immense, particularly when no Australian has done so in 44 years. She will 100% be feeling the nerves and expectation as she walks out onto Rod Laver Arena. Still, I think she gets it done!
Matt Walsh: Looking at her form in Australia this season so far, it's looking very likely. She's played barely six hours of tennis this tournament and looks fresh and ready as a result. But thinking back even just to last year, she looked in similarly ripping touch until she was abruptly undone by Karolina Muchova in the quarters. Make no mistake (and she won't admit to it), but there's a lot of pressure on Barty -- but I think this time around, as the favorite for the third time here, she'll deliver a historic win for her and Australia.
Ohm Youngmisuk: My money is on Barty to come through. She has dominated so far, surrendering a total of 21 games on her way to the final. Her closest win was a 6-4, 6-3 win over Amanda Anisimova in the fourth round, which shows you just how dominant she's been. Collins has a chance, but Barty will be playing for national pride as well and should hold up the trophy at the end.
What would Danielle Collins need to do to win?
Hamilton: She has played so well at Melbourne, and she must maintain this incredible intensity if she is to knock over Barty. While Barty has an all-court game, if Collins can attack Barty's serve, then she can get a foothold in this match and the pressure of the home crowd might start to weigh slightly on Barty's shoulders. I also love the way she's been standing at changeovers -- it gives her an air of invincibility and must be intimidating for her opponents.
Jensen: Collins, a two-time NCAA champion at UVa, is at her best in the underdog role and has the ability to turn any tennis match into an emotional battle. Don't be fooled by all the "Come ons!" and fist pumps. Collins draws opponents out of the calmness of what they want to do, into a tennis fight they don't want. She has a world-class down-the-line backhand and crosscourt forehand. If Collins' second serve can stay away from the double faults and Barty's forehand, it may be a very interesting three-setter -- and Collins could pull off an upset!
Kumar: If Danielle Collins wants to give herself any chance of a shot at the title, she needs to get after Barty in the first set. She needs to move her across the court, and she needs to be aggressive. The best thing to do when playing against someone who hasn't lost a single set in the tournament is to throw them off in the first set. If Barty loses Set 1 and needs to recalibrate and find a new game plan, Collins will get the upper hand, and it will be a huge confidence booster going into the second and potentially third set. Then, she needs to play like she has nothing to lose -- which I'd say she's done well this tournament -- in close moments in the second and third set.
Maine: Exactly what she did against Iga Swiatek in the semifinals -- and then some. Collins has been sensational at the tournament this year and is riding some serious momentum with a statement victory over a Grand Slam champion, and she's notched two comeback wins after dropping the first set (against Elise Mertens and Clara Tauson). But it's going to take everything she has to stop Barty right now, and frankly, that still might not be enough.
Collins has been dictating play from the baseline, and that's where she's the most comfortable, but the versatile Barty thrives on taking her opponents out of their comfort zone, and she'll likely do just that on Saturday. Barty's serving prowess, variety and that backhand slice (*chef's kiss*) will all present a very tough challenge, but if Collins can take control early -- something none of Barty's opponents have done thus far -- that could befuddle Barty enough to keep it close. Collins did win their last meeting, at Adelaide in 2021, and that certainly will give her extra confidence. She's shown no real sign of nerves, and she will need to have her signature intensity and tough-as-nails attitude at the ready from the very start to give herself a chance.
Michaels: Stay aggressive. The fearless approach Collins took into her semifinal is something that can trouble Barty. Collins blew Iga Swiatek off the court with her power and mindset to constantly attack. This type of tennis can be high-risk, high-reward, but you feel she must continue, otherwise Barty will pick her apart. I see no reason she can't take a set and add to Barty's nerves.
Pam Shriver: To win, Collins needs to continue to dominate with her backhand crosscourt, serve well in the big moments and limit the unforced errors on the forehand side. When Barty's sharp backhand slices stay low, Collins must feel comfortable with the lower contact point. On the ad side, Collins will need to stand one step farther to her left, minimizing the damage Barty can inflict with the kick serve out wide.
If Collins believes she can join Barbora Krejcikova and Emma Raducanu as surprise major champions, that is most of the battle. She is playing well enough to be another surprise major winner on the women's side.
Walsh: Dictate the play and disrupt Barty's rhythm. Collins loves to attack relentlessly and set a fast pace, while Barty prefers to slow the points and outskill her opponents. If Collins can take advantage of Barty's second serves (against Madison Keys, Barty's first-serve percentage was 61%), she could put the pressure on the Australian, who has lost just one service game this entire tournament.
Youngmisuk: Collins absolutely has a chance to win her first major and stun Barty in the final. She's hitting big, blasting crisp crosscourt winners from both sides and taking the ball early and aggressively inside the baseline. She's playing with confidence and she has nothing to lose in this final. She'll need to play her best match, and there's always a chance that Barty could feel the weight of the moment as she looks to win her first Australian Open and become the first Aussie to win the title here in 44 years.