Instead, we have Garbine Muguruza looking to add to her two Grand Slam wins at the French Open (2016) and Wimbledon (2017), and 21-year-old American upstart Sofia Kenin chasing her first Slam win in her first Slam final.
So who will win Saturday's clash (3:30 a.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App)? Here are my three keys to this matchup:
Who can better settle the nerves?
In the semifinals, we saw that Barty and Kenin were very tight and almost frozen out there in the first set. Who is going to play freer tennis? Who is going to bring out their A-game under all this pressure? That's the No. 1 factor in this match.
Muguruza [has the edge] only because she has been [to a Grand Slam final] twice before. She knows what it's like to walk onto the court in that atmosphere. Watching Sofia the other day, and the nerves of her being in her first semifinal, is she going to still be nervous walking out onto the court in her first final or is she going to find the freedom to play her game? That's where I have to give the edge to Garbine.
Can Muguruza continue hitting her first serves?
Is Muguruza going to win enough easy, free points off that big first serve, which has been working so beautifully for her this tournament? She's been hitting a lot of aces, she's been hitting her spots and winning a lot of free points, so that's crucial for both ladies to get on top of. Kenin is going to have to read Muguruza's serve and see the ball early. Garbine is serving on her spots and serving into the corners really well, so Sofia is going to have to read them and change her positioning when she's returning and not be so predictable. Even if it's down the middle, she just needs to get a return back so she can start the rally, because that's when she has a chance to out-rally Muguruza.
Movement and fitness
Court coverage from both players is going to be important. Who is going to be able to move better? And I would like to even incorporate fitness into that: Who is going to be able to stay out there the longest and be able to move right up until the last point if it does go three sets? Longevity and fitness is going to be a consideration.
For Muguruza to outlast Halep, she was running right up until the last point and it was impressive. It's normally Halep who is one of the fittest players, and she was saying her legs were heavy. The temperatures were hot. Kenin was raised in Florida, so the heat did not bother her at all Thursday. They're both incredibly fit, but they've also had six matches coming in to this. So which one is going to be a little more fatigued coming into this one? Which one has played longer matches?
I was wrong both times for the semis, so I'm hesitant to choose one over the other. I would not be surprised if either player won. Just because of experience alone, I give the slight edge to Muguruza, and the fact that she has been playing with belief and confidence and power and having Conchita Martinez back as her coach has been great for her, so I would give her the slight edge.