MELBOURNE, Australia — Nick Kyrgios has declared compatriot Ash Barty “the favourite” to win the 2019 Australian Open, but has warned against placing too much expectation on the world No. 1 after she booked her place in the semifinals.
Barty became the first homegrown woman to reach the last four at Melbourne Park since Wendy Turnbull in 1984 when she defeated seventh seed Petra Kvitova in straight sets on Tuesday. The Queenslander will face 21-year-old American Sofia Kenin on Thursday for a place in the final.
Kyrgios, who was knocked out of the tournament in the fourth round by world No. 1 Rafael Nadal, believes Barty is is the woman to beat in Melbourne, but has cautioned Australians and the media against placing too much pressure on the 23-year-old star.
“It’s awesome we have an Aussie doing so well,” Kyrgios said of Barty, following his loss to Nadal. “The way she’s playing, I think she’s probably the favourite at this stage to win the Slam. I want her to win it.
“She’s been dealing with expectation for as long as I’ve known her. She was killing it in juniors and then she stepped away from the game to sort her life out [and] sort her mind out. She came back and she’s killing it. She’ll do fine, just don’t put too much expectation on her.”
Kyrgios’ thoughts have been backed up by bookmakers who have installed the 2019 French Open champion as a $2.25 favourite to add this year’s Australian Open title to her growing list of accomplishments.
But Barty isn’t paying attention to the growing hype, insisting she doesn’t feel any pressure or expectation despite being just two wins away from becoming the first local champion in Australia since 1978.
“I’m excited, my team’s excited. We love the opportunity to get another match, but I don’t pay attention to it,” Barty said, in reference to the growing expectation around Melbourne Park. “Hopefully I can bring a smile to a few faces around our country, but for me it’s just trying to do the best I can.
“My team do a good job of taking the p— a little bit and sending me some of the photos [of me on billboards]. You just have to have fun with it.”
Barty’s match against Kenin on Thursday will be for a place in the Australian Open final. The top seed, who has a career 4-1 record against the American, says she’s prepared for yet another gruelling contest.
“She’s an exceptional competitor who loves to test herself on the biggest stage,” Barty said. “I’ve played her a number of times now and she has a great knack of controlling the court from the centre of the court. It’s going to be important for me to nullify that if I can. I’ll need to get my running shoes on again.”