Hopes of a repeat of the Wimbledon final were dashed when unseeded Jil Teichmann continued her string of upsets at the Western & Southern Open with a straight sets win over the No 5 seed Karolina Pliskova on Saturday, and she will now meet the unstoppable World No 1 Ash Barty, who extended her stunning hot streak with an emphatic win over Angelique Kerber.
"I really like it, It's a nice challenge -- center court, playing the World No 1 in a final… it’s perfect. I'll just go for it. Jil Teichmann
24-year-old Teichmann, who entered the draw as a wild-card ranked World No 76, took just an hour 22 minutes to defeat the Czech World No 4, 6-2 6-4, on a toasty afternoon in Cincinnati while, earlier in the day, Barty reached her 6th final of the season by taking out the German 3-time Grand Slam champion, 6-2 7-5.
The top-seeded Aussie, who has led the ranking table for the past 82 weeks, needed an hour 15 minutes to move into the title match, surpassing her 2019 semi-final showing here in Cincy.
Teichmann’s run included beating her good friend and Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic, seeded 10, in the quarter-finals, before ousting Pliskova, who now has gone more than a year-and-a-half without a title.
Against Kerber, Barty increased her lead in the head-to-head record between multiple Grand Slam winners to 4-2 as she duplicated a Wimbledon semi-final victory from last month.
Barty produced 12 aces as she broke Kerber 5 times, recovering herself after being broken early in the second set.
Her 39 match wins this year nudge her one ahead of Aryna Sabalenka on the WTA list for the most victories this season.
Barty has yet to drop a set in Cincinnati, playing some of the best tennis of her career as she primes herself for a tilt at the upcoming US Open.
“It’s never, ever a walk in the park against Angie, she’s an exceptional competitor and I think early on in that second set she lifted and went into another gear and it took me a few games to go with her,” Barty said afterwards.
“Angie won the big points early on in the second set so I was glad I was able to find a way through there in the end.
“I had to find the balance between being aggressive and not being too passive and not letting Angie dictate.
“In the two games I got broken, she just saw too many second serves and was able to be assertive. So I’m really happy to get through, and to be playing for a title here in Cincinnati is awesome.”
Against Kerber, she found 29 winners to the German’s 16, and kept her error tally to 18 compared to her opponent’s 21.
The victory moves Barty into her 19th career final, 9th at WTA 1000 level or higher, and a Tour-leading 6th of 2021.
The start of each set was tightly contested, with little separating them and, at 2-2 in the first, the match was evenly poised, with both displaying electrifying tennis, but it took Barty just 27 minutes to pocket it after coming up with her boldest shotmaking of the day, a blitzed forehand crosscourt followed by a cheeky drop-shot on return, to break Kerber for the first time. .
From 0-2 down in the second, Kerber raised her game to lead by a break at 3-2, and although she was broken back quickly, she clung on valiantly until 5-5.
Again, Barty brilliantly turned a finely balanced situation into a sprint to the finish line, producing another exquisite drop-shot out of the blue to claim a crucial hold for 6-5, after which Kerber’s forehand leaked 3 errors.
“I didn’t feel like I did a lot wrong,” said Barty later. “In the games at 2-0 and 2-1, I felt the overhead, the ball just kept coming, and kept coming, with the wind and I got a little bit stuck under it.
“Angie came up with some really good stuff and tough points through that period. Even the same, at 2-2, I felt like I was able to set up points well and then missed the execution with the last little bit.
“That was frustrating me, because I knew that Angie was lifting and I needed to go with her, and not being able to execute the points when I had set them up the way that I wanted to was frustrating.
“Being able to get that momentum back with the break straight away, then it was a bit of a tug of war.
“I felt like I was able to build pressure on Angie’s games, but we both did a good job of getting out of some tough holds late in that second set.
“I think in the end, with the new balls, just being a little bit more aggressive and taking it on a bit more and trusting myself to actually get after it, and in a way accept if I was going to miss I was going to miss in the right way. I think that, in the end of the second set, was big.”
Barty ripped her 12 aces to the 33-year-old Kerber’s one while double-faulting just once to the 3 coughed up by the German.
“I think I did a pretty good job with my service games,” Barty said. “I served well and got some cheap points.
“Angie is a hell of a returner, one of the best in the game, and I wanted to take that away.”
“She has so much confidence right now,” the left-handed Kerber said of Barty. “She plays so well.
“Her serve is good. It’s a big weapon from her, and she’s playing tricky as well. She knows where to put the ball and how to play the moment. That’s why she is where she is.”
Since the tournament’s first edition in 1899, only 4 Australian women have won the singles title – Thelma Coyne Long (1953), Lesley Bowrey (1969), Margaret Court (1972) and Evonne Goolagong Cawley (1973).
To add her name to the honour roll, Barty has a new puzzle to solve in Teichmann, who is also a left-hander and has already upset World No 2 Naomi Osaka, Bencic and Pliskova this week.
“I really like it,” the Swiss said. “It’s a nice challenge — center court, playing the World No 1 in a final… it’s perfect. I’ll just go for it.”
Teichmann needed 84 minutes to continue an outstanding week with her straights sets defeat of Pliskova to book a spot in the biggest WTA singles final of her career.
After a love hold for 2-2 in the first set, Teichmann notched up a critical service break when, on her 2nd opportunity, she carved out a slice to force a netted error from Pliskova, and then won the final 5 games of the opening frame.
The Swiss served her way out of triple break point down at 3-2 in the second set, eventually gritting out that hold after 5 deuces.
The pair exchanged breaks after that, but Teichmann reclaimed the break to lead 5-4, and served out the match with aplomb to enter her first WTA 1000 final.
“I think I served really good, as did she,” Teichmann told the press after her win. “Especially in the beginning, I was trying to return, somehow get into the rally.
“I felt, as well, very good in the rally, and I think that’s where I made the difference.
“I have been working a lot on many different aspects. Mentally I have been working [on] my strokes.
“I have been working physically, as I mentioned already the past few days. I have had injuries, so I had to work a lot physically, as well. Long weeks, long hours. I guess just the positives getting together right now this week.”
Both players had a 69 percent success rate behind their first serves, but it was on second-service points where Teichmann took charge, winning 59 percent of those, compared to just 34 percent for the 2021 Wimbledon runner-up Pliskova.
That allowed Teichmann to convert 4 of her 9 break points, while Pliskova was just 1-for-7 on break points, while the Swiss also fired 8 aces, double that of the Czech, who has led the tour in aces in 4 of the last 6 seasons.
“I felt like I didn’t play my best tennis today, but her game is not comfortable to play against,” Pliskova said of Teichmann. “She’s a lefty. She was serving great. She was playing confident and fast.”
After ousting fourth-ranked Pliskova, Teichmann stands 4-0 this season against top 10 players.
Teichmann is now into her 4th WTA singles final, having claimed clay court titles in 2019 in Prague and Palermo and, last year, she reached her first hard-court final in Lexington.
In the doubles final, Samantha Stosur & Zhang Shuai captured their 3rd team title and first since winning the 2019 Australian Open, defeating Montreal champions Gabriela Dabrowski & Luisa Stefani, 7-5 6-3 to win the Western & Southern title on Saturday after an hour 23 minutes.
The straight-set win capped off an exciting week for Stosur & Zhang, who won 4 consecutive match tiebreaks to advance to their 2nd WTA 1000 final as a team.
Cincinnati served as a reunion for Stosur & Zhang, who had not teamed up since the Australian Open.
Facing the hottest team on the doubles circuit, Stosur & Zhang quickly overcame a slow start after falling behind 0-2 in the first set.
Behind Zhang’s strong returning, the Australian-Chinese duo broke serve to take the opening set and the second proved more of the same for the eventual champions, as they rallied from 0-2 down again to build a lead on Dabrowski & Stefani, who were into their 3rd straight final of the summer hard-court season.
“I thought we saw many elements of a doubles match today,” Stosur said. “Shuai was able to hit lots of angles, low balls, they were lobbing, we had power. I thought everyone served pretty well for the match.
“Overall I think we played very solid. We were very clear and decisive with what we were choosing to do, and we were able to execute it more often than not.
“I think the key was we served really well and were mostly doing well on our service games. Then able to put a lot of pressure on them continually and were able to get more breaks.”
Dabrowski & Stefani kept the pressure on in the final game and, with Stosur serving at 5-3, they earned 2 break points at 30-40 but the 2011 US Open champion turned back the clock and fired 2 perfectly-placed first serves to close out the win, punctuating the night with an ace.
“We just so enjoy playing together,” Zhang said. “We’re so happy to play together.
“Even yesterday, last night, we were so tired, but [our] opponents [had] match points, and we’re still laughing, we still smile. We always make some funny things when we’re feeling really bad and we come back.
“So, yeah, we missed each other so much, because last two years we cannot play together. The first tournament we play together again, and we won the big trophy. That’s so special. The first day, we meet each other and Sam told me, ‘Yeah, we’re back.’ All positive.”