MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Former Australian world number one Pat Rafter said Ash Barty’s game is tailor-made for grass, but he has always believed the Wimbledon champion would do well on a fast hard court.
After the women’s number one won 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 Melbourne or New York.
The 25-year-old, who also won the French Open on clay, will face Madison Keys in the Melbourne Park semifinals on Thursday, 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 strikes up with Barty at his home in the surfing hamlet of Byron Bay in New South Wales.
The 49-year-old said the variety of Barty’s shots sets her apart from her rivals.
“I thought she had a pretty good match for the hard court, especially a faster hard court,” he told Reuters.
“But what she does have is a set of skills that a lot of girls don’t have… She’s got good hands. She is able to change the pace and also adapt to really bad bounces and different things on the other surfaces.
“Of course she has a custom game for grass, but grass isn’t like it was 30 years ago.”
Barty has dropped just 17 games in five games at the Rod Laver Arena this year.
After beating Jessica Pegula on Tuesday, she noted that the hot and humid conditions were more like her hometown of Brisbane than Melbourne.
The Queenslander prefers to play matches in the heat of the day, when the field is faster.
But Tyzzer said the conditions helped Barty this year, as the track held in its heat in the early evening, making it livelier.
“I think the heat in the court really helps. There is a little more bounce. We train in that stuff for the season. She likes that kind of weather,” he said.
“It certainly helps her with those conditions. Even though she plays late, it’s still hot on the track.”
Tyzzer said Keys, a US Open finalist in 2017, poses a “huge challenge” for the Australian.
But he says Barty, who has won two of her three games against the American, has yet to play her best tennis in the 2022 Australian Open, despite the dominance she has shown.
“It’s still building and she still needs to keep working and be ready every time she goes out,” he said.
“Obviously Maddie is going to be a huge challenge. (She is) such a powerful athlete and (has) a powerful game. Ash must be really excited to be in a competition.”
(Reporting by Courtney Walsh; editing by Peter Rutherford)