Ash Barty failed to capitalise crucial set points against Sofia Kenin. Picture: Michael Klein
Ash Barty failed to capitalise crucial set points against Sofia Kenin. Picture: Michael Klein

The four points which ruined Barty’s party

GRAND Slam tennis is about the smallest margins.

An opportunity lost on one side of the net can be gold on the other. Matches, careers, lives change in a heartbeat.

Ashleigh Barty won three fewer points than Sofia Kenin in an Australian Open semi-final and lost in straight sets.

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Boiled down, the four biggest points of the match - the four set points Barty held across two sets - changed Kenin's career.

"I kind of felt like I was scrapping and trying to find what I wanted to do best and came within a couple of points of winning the match," Barty said.

"Yeah, sometimes it falls your way, sometimes it doesn't.

"That's just sport, that's life."

Less than a year ago, Barty was ranked 15th before advancing on a grand slam crown and rising to No.1 in the world.

Sofia Kenin upstaged world No.1 Ash Barty to qualify for her first grand slam final. Picture: Mark Stewart
Sofia Kenin upstaged world No.1 Ash Barty to qualify for her first grand slam final. Picture: Mark Stewart

Kenin, 21, is on the same pathway. She'll be in the top 10 this time next week.

In time, she will have to cope with expectations similar to those smothering Barty on Rod Laver Arena over the past 10 days.

In time, she will face accusations of choking - as Barty inanely does now.

If anything, Barty went for too much, a symptom of the pressure Kenin applied and a nod to the attacking instincts which defines her tennis.

Barty simply failed to convert.

A bloke called Roger Federer served for the Wimbledon final last year but couldn't capitalise on two match points.

Does anyone, with a modicum of intelligence, really consider Fed a choker?

Barty's progress over the past 12 months has been phenomenal.

Ash Barty rued her missed opportunities against Sofia Kenin. Picture: Michael Klein
Ash Barty rued her missed opportunities against Sofia Kenin. Picture: Michael Klein

Her career trajectory, even in shattering defeat, continues to rise.

There are days when she will come up short because of a number of factors - just as Serena Williams has in the four grand slam finals she's contested since her last major title.

There are days when Barty will successfully contend for titles.

The Melbourne Park semi-final, against an irrepressible young American who was better on the day, was simply beyond her grasp.

It's not a crisis. It's a lost tennis match. A lost opportunity.

Life goes on.

"I was also a couple of points from winning the match in straight sets," Barty said, digesting defeat. "That's disappointing. But we live and we move on."