Ash Barty to face Karolina Pliskova in Wimbledon final after high-quality semi-finals

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 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Ash Barty became the first Australian woman into a Wimbledon final since her mentor Evonne Goolagong Cawley following a high-quality match against Angelique Kerber.

And she will take on Karolina Pliskova in Saturday’s final after she won another captivating battle, this time of big-serving, power tennis against Aryna Sabalenka in the other semi-final.

The level of play from 2018 champion Kerber and world No1 Barty made for arguably the best match-up of the women’s draw to date.

It was a clash of styles, the wristy play of Barty and her athleticism matched by the potent groundstrokes of Kerber, which had her opponent scampering around the court.

There were puffs of white smoke throughout as both players peppered the lines with exquisite shots and timing but it was Barty who marginally held the edge for a 6-3 7-6 victory.

“This is incredible - this is close to as good a tennis match as I’ll ever play,” she said. “Angie brought the best out of me today and it was a hell of a match from the first ball. Now we get a chance on Saturday to try to live out a childhood dream.”

The result was harsh on Kerber, who has endured a terrible run of form during the Covid lockdown but has recaptured her very best on the grass by winning her warm-up event and playing so well through Wimbledon.

On the evidence of Kerber’s performance, it seemed impossible to think the former world No1’s most recent title before that was here in 2018.

Both women had their chances to gain the ascendancy but, when it mattered most in the opening set, Barty was able to hold firm while Kerber faltered just once in the sole break of serve.

Towards the end of that set, however, the German began to up the tempo and her aggression, and took that up a notch further in set two.

She broke her opponent immediately and forged into a 4-1 lead. Despite that scoreline, so tight were the margins of this contest that it felt like it could easily edge back in Barty’s favour. And so it proved, Kerber having an off service game to allow the Australian back in.

Three times Barty served to stay in the set, on all three occasions successfully to force a tiebreak which she dominated.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

The second semi-final on Centre Court was a totally different spectacle but no less engaging as Sabalenka and Pliskova rained down a barrage of aces.

The Czech player should really have taken the opening set but could not convert any of eight break points. Her Belarusian opponent needed just one and that was enough to take the set.

Pliskova finally got her break in the second set, which was no more than she deserved, and broke Sabalenka in her opening service game of the third. Undeterred, Sabalenka continued to put pressure on her opponent but lost to the marginally better player 5-7 6-4 6-4.

“She was unbelievable today,” Pliskova said of her opponent. “A lot of credit to her. I was super happy I managed to stay in it and found a way to win.”

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