One of them displays an eerie calm, the other a powder keg of emotions, but together Ash Barty and Nick Kyrgios have combined to help revive the Australian Open.
In less than two weeks, the Grand Slam has gone from the embarrassment of the Novak Djokovic affair to the brink of celebrating longed-for home champions.
The most significant of these would be Barty holding the trophy aloft when she becomes the first Australian woman to compete in the final since Wendy Turnbull 42 years ago.
Ashleigh Barty beat Madison Keys in straight sets to reach the Australian Open singles final
Kyrgrios is the highest-profile member of an all-Aussie quartet contesting the men’s doubles final. For good measure, the country’s wheelchair legend, Dylan Alcott, has just been named Australian of the Year.
It may not be quite the heyday of Rod Laver and Margaret Court, but still quite a turnaround after all the recrimination.
But over the past fortnight, Barty has shown that she has separated herself from the rest of the women’s game. Surely it would only be a loss of nerve that can stop her winning the title when she meets feisty American outsider Danielle Collins, the No 27 seed.
Her superior class to the rest of the field was evident when she comfortably suppressed the easy power of Madison Keys to win Thursday’s semi-final 6-1, 6-3.
Barty (left) becomes the first Australian woman to reach the final of her home Grand Slam since Wendy Turnbull (right) back in 1980
What has been remarkable is the zen-like calm she has brought to the court under so much domestic pressure. That proved too much for some of the country’s finest players in recent decades, such as Lleyton Hewitt and Samantha Stosur.
Keys was left as a subscriber to the belief that the reigning Wimbleton champion is now a player apart. ‘I definitely think so. She seems focused, but she’s playing within herself and it just seems like everything is really working for her,’ said the American.
‘The rest of us are watching it thinking, “Wow, this is incredible,” but when you watch her, she seems completely in control of it all.’
Asked what it was like playing against her, she responded: ‘It’s tough. It sucks. She’s serving incredibly well, so you don’t get any free points on that. Her (backhand) slice is coming in so much lower and deeper than it was in the past so it’s hard to do anything on that. Then you try to play to her forehand and she can open you up there.’
Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios will be in the men’s doubles final at the Australian Open
Barty has reached the quarter-finals or better for four years in a row in Melbourne, but never been this tantalisingly close.
‘I’ve loved playing here in Australia. I’ve had my best results here over the last little period,’ she said. ‘It’s really exciting now that we get to play for a title on a Saturday at your home Slam.’
Collins, her unlikely opponent, broke serve six times against the favoured but disappointing Iga Swiatek to win 6-4, 6-1.
Kyrgios and partner Thanasi Kokkinakis will meet Max Purcell and Matthew Ebden, who upset last year’s beaten finalists, Britain’s Joe Salisbury and partner Rajeev Ram, 6-3, 7-6. The No 2 seeds Salisbury and Ram had four set points in the second but failed to capitalise.
The crowd on the Rod Laver Arena were boisterous in their support for the home duo
Kyrgios has been dividing opinion all tournament through his on-court antics. He remains a huge crowd-puller, although some of his compatriots (and fellow players) view him with distaste. He did not appreciate being asked who would have the support in the championship match.
‘We have four Aussies in the final. Can we stop dividing which pair the crowd is going to go for?’ he demanded. ‘It’s just amazing we’ve got four Aussies in the final. Ash doing her thing. Dylan’s last Australian Open. Can we up the energy a little bit? It’s fing awesome.’
Meanwhile, Britain’s Alfie Hewett lost in the Australian Open wheelchair singles final, going down 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 to Japan’s Shingo Kunieda.
In the men’s semi-finals, Rafael Nadal is due to face Matteo Berrettini on Friday morning with Stefanos Tsitsipas taking on US Open champion Daniil Medvedev to follow.