World No 1 Ashleigh Barty became the first Australian to reach the Wimbledon women’s singles final in 41 years after defeating former champion Angelique Kerber.
Barty’s impressive 6-3 7-6 (7-3) victory over 2018 champion Kerber puts her through to a second Grand Slam final and with the chance to emulate her mentor Evonne Goolagong, who won the second of her titles at the All England Club in 1980.
“This is incredible. This is as close to as good a tennis match as I’ll ever play. Angie brought the best out of me. I’m incredibly proud of myself and my team and now we get a chance on Saturday to try to live out our childhood dream,” said Barty, whose outfit is a tribute to the one worn by Goolagong for the first of her victories in 1971.
“I’ve had an incredible journey, ups and downs and everything in between, and I wouldn’t change one moment. It’s been unique, incredible, it’s been tough. There have been so many things that have led to this moment. I’m enjoying every single minute.
“Being able to play on the final Saturday at Wimbledon is going to be just the best experience ever.”
Barty will face another first-time finalist at the All England Club in Karolina Pliskova after the Czech battled back from a set down to beat second seed Aryna Sabalenka 5-7 6-4 6-4.
Barty’s game has always appeared a perfect fit for grass and she won the junior title a decade ago aged just 15.
She demonstrated why immediately against Kerber, who has been resurgent on the big stage this tournament after winning a warm-up title on home soil in Germany.
Barty won the first three games, using her kick serve effectively before Kerber improved, slowly finding her rhythm.
Kerber’s last victory over a top-10 player was two years ago but she began the second set much better, capitalising on a slight drop in level from her opponent and beginning to assert some authority from the baseline.
She led 3-0 and 4-1 but the advantage was slender and it was no real surprise when Barty broke back for 5-4 on a weak game from Kerber.
The German forced a tie-break but quickly found herself 6-0 down and, although she saved three match points, Barty clinched victory on her fourth opportunity.
Barty, who did not travel at all last year once the pandemic struck, has calmly set about showing this year that she belongs at the top of the women’s game.
The 25-year-old will get her chance to hold aloft The Venus Rosewater Dish on Saturday when she takes on Pliskova.
The Czech goes into Saturday’s final looking to capture her first Grand Slam title, having only ever reached one other final when she finished runner-up to Kerber at the 2016 US Open.
Pliskova found it hard going against Sabalenka, the first seeded player she had faced in this year’s tournament, and it showed as she dropped her first set on the only break point she faced with a double fault.
But she responded by clinching a break to love midway through the second set. It was her ninth break point of the match but the first she converted, giving her the confidence to serve out the set and level the score.
Sabalenka gave up an early break in the first game of the deciding set and although the Belarusian rallied, Pliskova rarely broke sweat on her own serve as she booked her place in Saturday’s showpiece with an ace.
She said: “It’s amazing, until now I didn’t get past the fourth round – now I’m in the final. It’s an amazing achievement.
“I think we played a great match. She served amazing, so I’m super happy I managed to stay in there and find a way to win.”