Portugal Colonial - Collins looking for 'the zone' to deny Barty Australian Open title

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Collins looking for 'the zone' to deny Barty Australian Open title
Collins looking for 'the zone' to deny Barty Australian Open title

Collins looking for 'the zone' to deny Barty Australian Open title

Danielle Collins faces a daunting task in the Australian Open final on Saturday against a world number one who is aiming to become the first homegrown women's champion in 44 years, backed by a fiercely partisan crowd.

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But the resurgent American is reday to tackle top seed and clear favourite Ashleigh Barty.

A raging Collins was in "the zone" to take apart Polish seventh seed Iga Swiatek and make her first Grand Slam final. She knows if she can find the sweet spot again on Saturday she has a chance.

"I think for me when I have a really clear idea of my tactics and what I want to do, it's easier for me to get there," said the 27th seed, who is pain-free after surgery last year for endometriosis.

"But then, you know, just like any other athlete and I think all of us on tour, you know, we have days where we try to get in the zone and we can't.

"But I think it really helps when you can have a real clear road map to what you want to do on court and how you want to execute your game plan."

The big-hitting Collins will need to bring more than just raw power to counter the tactical Barty who has been rampant so far, winning 20 of 21 sets this year.

As Jessica Pegula put it after losing to the Australian in the quarter-finals: "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."

But Collins has proven at Melbourne Park that she belongs on the big stage, and has pushed Barty hard in their previous four matches, winning their previous encounter in Adelaide last year in straight sets.

"I'm going to have to kind of look back at some of the matches that we have played in the past and sit down and think about what worked well and maybe some of the things that didn't work as well and just try to come up with the best game plan possible," she said.

- Weight of expectation -

Working against Barty could be the weight of expectation.

She is the first Australian woman into the decider of her home Grand Slam since Wendy Turnbull in 1980 and is aiming to become the first winner since Chris O'Neil in 1978.

But the two-time Grand Slam champion -- at the 2019 French Open and Wimbledon in 2021-- appears relaxed and ready to accept the extra pressure.

Asked how she would prepare for one of the biggest matches of her career, she replied: "Same old. I'm a creature of habit. Not a lot will change for us. The preparation stays the same, process is the same.

"I'm able to switch off when I'm not here on site and that makes the time when we are on site more enjoyable, more special, and then we switch on and get ready to go."

Barty has repeatedly pointed during the tournament to her ability to "problem-solve" while on court, a trait she has worked on with coach Craig Tyzzer.

That will again come into play against Collins, who is not just one of the game's hardest hitters, but also one of its most passionate, in stark contrast to an unflustered Barty.

"I think the way she's able to control the baseline and really take the game on she's one of the most fierce competitors out here. She loves to get in your face and loves to really take it on," said Barty.

"It's going to be a challenge for me to try and neutralise as best that I can. I think the challenge is going to be trying to get her off-balance."