Barty, Pliskova advance to Wimbledon final

London, Jul 8 (EFE).- Australian world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty booked a spot in the Wimbledon championship match for the first time with a 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) victory Thursday over 2018 champion Angelique Kerber and will next take on maiden finalist Karolina Pliskova, who rallied to defeat big-hitting Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

Barty and Kerber were the first players on Centre Court and delivered on expectations for an entertaining battle pitting two of the sport’s most savvy grass-court practitioners.

The Australian set the tone early with her forehand and notched the first service break when she kept the point alive with her underrated defense before whipping a down-the-line forehand passing shot past Kerber to go ahead 2-0.

She kept that advantage the rest of the opener, finishing it off in the ninth game when she fought off a break point and then struck a service winner on set point.

The three-time Grand Slam champion had plenty of fight left in her though and turned the tables on Barty at the start of the second set, earning her first service break – and a 2-0 lead – when the Australian pushed a forehand wide.

But Kerber still had a long way to go to finish off the set against the world No. 1, who repeatedly threatened the German’s serve before finally breaking back in the ninth game.

The world No. 28 managed to steady herself after losing 11 consecutive points and held serve for a 6-5 lead, but Barty then proceeded to reel off 10 points in a row to force a tiebreaker and take a commanding 6-0 lead in that decider.

The German saved three of those match points but finally succumbed when she sent one final backhand into the net.

Barty’s vicious forehand and potent serve were the biggest difference-makers in the match, in which she struck 38 winners to Kerber’s 16 and won 88 percent of her first-serve points.

She only put 55 percent of her first serves in play though, a number she will want to improve upon in Saturday’s final.

“I think for me today it was about knowing that I could draw on my experiences from my two previous (Grand Slam) semis – (the 2019 French Open and 2020 Australian Open) – and I think I was able to do that,” said the 25-year-old Barty, who has made a quick recovery from a hip injury that forced her to retire from last month’s French Open.

“But Angie is an incredible competitor. She’s a great champion. I knew that I had to bring my very best level today to match it with her.”

The second women’s semifinal was a battle of big servers that figured to boil down to a handful of key points.

The fourth-ranked Sabalenka came through in the clutch early on, using her massive serve to save all eight break points she faced and then clinching the first set on a Pliskova double fault.

But the Czech player, who has struggled this season and fell out of the top 10 for the first time in five years prior to the start of Wimbledon, showed plenty of resilience to storm back in the second set.

She finally notched a service break in the fifth game of that set to take a 3-2 lead and escaped a 0-30 hole in the 10th game before forcing a decider with a forehand winner.

The world No. 13 then asserted control at the start of the third set with a service break in the opening game and never looked back, capping off her dominating performance on serve with an ace on match point.

For the contest, Pliskova struck 14 aces (four fewer than the Belarusian) and won 78 percent of her first-serve points and a whopping 69 percent of her second-serve points.

And she faced just one break point in the match and none over the final two sets.

“After losing the first set, I thought it was going to be super tough to win this match,” said the 29-year-old Czech, who advanced to her second Grand Slam final ( 2016 US Open).

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