It might not be a new Ashleigh Barty in the 2022 season, but by all accounts it is certainly an improved one. The World No.1 is 10-0 on the season and into her third major final and first at the Australian Open, where she will face American Danielle Collins on Saturday.
in the midst of her perfect start, Barty has been broken only once in her past nine matches. Over the same stretch, she has not lost a set and has dropped more than three games in a set just three times. The 25-year-old Queenslander has been incredibly sharp, a particularly impressive feat given she shut down her 2021 season after the US Open in September.
"I think everything has just improved a little bit," Madison Keys said of Barty after the semifinal. "I think she's got a little bit more precise on her serve. I think her forehand she's doing a really good job at mixing up paces and spins, as well. It feels like you can't really get in a rhythm off of that forehand side.
"Then on her backhand side, I mean, everything is coming in at your shoelaces on the baseline. So it's not like you can really do anything with that."
Barty's longtime coach, Craig Tyzzer, spoke to reporters after the quarterfinal round to provide some insight into her preparation and outlook on her progress through the tournament. Here are five key things we learned:
What makes Barty's slice a weapon:
"I think it is a point of difference. There's not many girls out there that hit a slice backhand.
"I think the fact that they don't see it that often and then have to come up against it -- it's actually quite funny. When you see who Ash has to play, you see them out there practicing someone hitting a slice backhand to them. It's probably a bit late the day before to try to get that right. If you haven't practiced it enough now, you're probably not going to get that right.
"We'll mix it. She'll vary it according to who she's playing. Against some players it makes no difference whatsoever. She doesn't use it tactically as much against certain players, but she will mix it in according to who she's playing and what she needs to get out of the slice as well. It varies a lot.
"She's probably used her two-hander a lot more in the last couple of years. When we first started, she probably used the slice a lot more. She probably uses the slice more effectively now."
Barty has not played her best tennis yet in Melbourne:
"I think last year, we were away seven and a half months. We talked about her best matches. Ash said there were probably four times where she felt like she played her best tennis. That was seven and a half months of tennis.
"I think it's her ability to on the days when she's not playing well, to still look like she's playing well and still be able to compete. Whether or not she brings her margins in or corrects something or tries something different, she's more capable of handling those days when it's not that good.
"I don't think from the outside you can tell. It's probably the same with most of the top players. Their consistency level is huge. Even if you watch them, you can't tell a lot of difference.
"I don't feel like she's played her best tennis here yet, which is great in that sense. It's still building and she's still got to keep working and being ready for every time she steps out there."
On being comfortable against the tour's big hitters:
"I think she played Giorgi who hits the ball a million miles an hour and was able to absorb that pace and do something with it. There are lots of girls out there that do that quite well.
"I think Ash has other attributes. Her forehand is actually a weapon. Her slice will set her up a lot for her forehand. Her serve sets her up a lot for her shots as well. It's all of those elements for me.
"You've got to be able to counteract those big, strong girls. Sabalenka is another one. There are a lot of those girls who hit big out there. It's being able to handle that pace but do something with your shots as well."
The heat has paid off during night matches:
"I think the heat in the court really helps. There's a bit more bounce. She would love to be playing during the day when it's Queensland hot weather. We train in that stuff pre-season. She loves that sort of weather.
"It's been good that it's nice and warm. Gets more bounce in the court. It certainly helps her with those conditions. Even though she's been playing late, there's still heat in the court."
Winning Slams was never the discussion when she began her comeback in 2016:
"I don't think there was any talk of that when she came back. She basically had done no physical training, per se, other than play cricket and a little bit of coaching. So physically she was miles off the mark.
"It took us 12 months before she was back to a semi-decent level. Again, still then she wasn't anywhere near where she is now. It's been a long process to get to the tennis she's been playing over the last few years.
"I don't think she thought she was a Grand Slam winner back then. I think she just thought she was good at tennis, if she really worked at it, things might work out, but she was going to give ate try.
"She's worked extremely hard in lots of areas to get to where she is today."