LONDON – Seeded Ash Barty became the first Australian to reach the singles final at Wimbledon for 41 years after beating former champion Angelique Kerber 6-3 7-6 (3) on Thursday.
The 25-year-old will now aim to emulate Evonne Goolagong who won the second of her two crowns at Wimbledon in 1980.
After saving a breaking point in a nervous opening game on a sunny center court, world number one Barty was supreme in the first set as her all-court play unfolded on the grass.
Kerber, 33, used all of his surface experience to strike back in the second set and looked set to play a decisive role in his 5-3 serve.
But Barty got back into the fray and started to love.
Kerber’s game erupted in the tiebreaker and Barty took a 6-0 lead and despite missing three match points, she was never going to let her opportunity pass.
A Kerber setback saw Barty advance to his second Grand Slam final, after winning the French Open in 2019.
She will face Karolina Pliskova in Saturday’s showpiece after the Czech beat Aryna Sabalenka – the first time since 1977 that the two finalists have made their first final at Wimbledon.
Former Wimbledon junior champion Barty was forced to withdraw from the French Open due to a hip injury which required intensive rehabilitation in preparation for the championships.
After a rocky start when she lost a set to Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro in the first round, Barty lent herself to the task of following in Goolagong’s footsteps on the 50th anniversary of her first Wimbledon title.
And it has taken a new step forward against former world number one Kerber, who has regained form after a slump.
“It’s amazing, it’s a game of tennis almost as good as I’ll ever play,” Barty, who, like trailblazer Goolagong, is proud of her native Australian heritage.
“Angie got the best of me today and it was a hell of a game from the first ball and I knew I had to play well just to compete. Very proud of me and my team and now we have the chance to win the childhood dream. ”
Barty was the first Australian to reach a semi-final at Wimbledon since Jelena Dokic in 2000 and it was only her third Grand Slam semi-final, so there was some tension at the start.
The Queenslander double faulted on the opening point and a few errant groundstrokes gave Kerber two break points.
Kerber failed to catch them though, and when Barty guessed a Kerber smash on a breaking point in the next match, shooting a forehand winner down the line, the Australian went off on a roll.
Mixing his heavy sliced backhand with whipped topspin forehands, Barty dictated the points and his only shot was a double fault at 30-30, 5-3 which gave Kerber an escape route, but once again Barty choked the danger.
Kerber started hitting more freely in the second set and after an early break she took the lead 5-2 with a characteristic forehand played almost from a squat position.
However, Barty never panicked and fell in love with a tilted forehand when Kerber served at 5-3.
After that, she was an unstoppable force.
“I was trying to play my game. But she always had a good answer. She played very well in the important moments. I think that was the key in the end, ”Kerber said.
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