World No 1 Ash Barty underlined her status in the women’s game by getting past former Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber, 6-3 7-6(3), on Centre Court on Thursday to reach the final of The Championships.
She doesn't give you cheapies - she competes for every single point... I've got the chance on Saturday to live out a childhood dream. Ash Barty
By her own admission, Barty played the best match of her life to beat the 3-time Wimbledon finalist, denying the German the chance to go for her 4th Grand Slam title on Saturday.
Barty is the first Australian woman to reach the final since her idol and mentor Evonne Goolagong Cawley won her second title in 1980.
“It’s incredible, it was as close to as good a tennis match that I have ever played,” said Barty who fired 8 aces and 38 winners. “It was a hell of a match from the first ball.
“I am really proud of myself and my team. It’s been an incredible journey, full of ups and downs.”
It is 10 years since Barty won the junior title at Wimbledon, and many expected her to pick up her first Grand Slam singles trophy here on the grass but, instead, it was in Paris on the clay in 2019 that she walked away with the crown.
Surprisingly, until this summer she had never gone beyond the 4th round in the ladies’ singles at SW19.
Kerber, who won the title in 2018 after beating Serena Williams in the final in straight sets, has experienced a resurgence on the grass over the past few weeks, her favourite surface, and many tipped her to advance in the semi-finals but Barty, after a nervous start, played a near-flawless opening set to set the tone for the match.
“She doesn’t give you cheapies – she competes for every single point,” Barty had said ahead of the match.
Kerber arrived for the semi-final on an undefeated run of 10 matches, having prepared for The Championships by winning a tournament in Bad Homburg in Germany and while Barty didn’t always have everything her own way in her service games, she wasn’t getting any ‘cheapies’.
She took the opening set, even dodging a breakpoint as she served for it, but the German surged back in the second, breaking immediately and building to a 5-2 lead.
Barty didn’t fret and broke to love to narrow the gap, then recovered a second break at 5-3, winning 11 straight points to charge back to level at 5-all, including when Kerber served for the set at 5-4.
The World No 1 was dominant in the tiebreak, jumping to a 6-0 lead and while Kerber narrowed that gap, Barty took the spoils after an hour and 26 minutes of enthralling play.
Overall, Barty was incredibly proficient behind her first serve, winning 88 percent of those points and firing 8 aces while slamming 38 winners to just 16 unforced errors, as she gritted out 2 tough sets against former World No 1 Kerber.
Barty is the first No 1 seed to reach a Wimbledon final since 2016, when then-World No 1 Serena Williams defeated Kerber in the final, and the Australian was already guaranteed that she would remain at World No 1 by virtue of reaching the semi-finals.
She is making history in so many ways, from the hemline of her skort and in the flowers of her tank top, inspired by the scalloped dress Goolagong Cawley wore when winning her first Wimbledon title half a century ago, to her results on the tennis court.
On Saturday afternoon, she will be looking to make even more history when she attempt to add to her previous Grand Slam singles title.
“I’ve got the chance on Saturday to live out a childhood dream,” she says, now just one match away from becoming only the 4th woman in the post-1968 Open era after Ann Jones, Martina Hingis and Amelie Mauresmo to accomplish the junior-senior double.
To fulfil her dream the 25-year-old Australian will have to get past either former World No 1 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic or Belarusian 2nd seed Aryna Sabalenka in Saturday’s final.