World No.1 Ashleigh Barty reached her first Wimbledon final on Thursday with a hard-fought 6-3, 7-6 win over 2018 champion Angelique Kerber. The Australian hit 38 winners to just 16 unforced errors as she overturned a 3-5 deficit in the second set to win the match in 1 hour and 26 minutes. The 2019 Roland Garros champion, Barty, will take on Karolina Pliskova in Saturday’s final. The No.8-seeded Czech fought back from a set down to knock out No.2 Aryna Sabalenka 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 on Thursday in the other semifinal.
“Yeah, it was incredible,” Barty said after the match. “It was just almost a moment of relief, a moment of pure excitement. It was something that I’d never, never knew if I would feel. I think being able to have an opportunity to play in a final here at Wimbledon is incredible.”
Barty and Kerber had not played each other since 2018, with all four of their previous meetings taking place on hard courts. In their first encounter on grass, the Australian came on top. Barty, who was forced to retire in the second round of Roland Garros due to a hip injury, came out of the blocks sharper. After saving two break points in the first game, she captured the Kerber serve with a forehand winner. That lead was enough for the Australian to see out the set.
A former World No.1, Kerber, came back strongly in the second set. Her positive start was rewarded as she broke for 2-0 after Barty sent a forehand wide. Serving for the set, the German produced two backhand errors, and Barty took advantage of it as she soon levelled it at 5-5. The tiebreak was a one-sided affair. Down 0-6, Kerber saved the first three match points, but Barty closed out the set to book a final ticket.
“She is really intelligent player. She knows how to play also with her slice. Then she’s going forward with her forehand,” Kerber said. “She really served well today. You see that she has a lot of confidence, that she played a lot of big matches, that she’s the No.1 player in the world right now. But for me it was important to give everything I had on court. Yeah, like I said, she had always, like in the important moment, the better answer.”
Barty went on to talk about her Wimbledon experiences and how much she has learned from this tournament. “I wasn’t sure if it would ever happen honestly,” Barty said. “You have to keep putting yourself in the position. Wimbledon for me has been an amazing place of learning. I think 10 years ago I came here for the first time as a junior and learned a lot in that week.
“Probably 2018, 2019 was some of my toughest weeks playing. To come away with our losses in those two tournaments, I learned a hell of a lot from those two times. I think a lot of the time your greatest growth comes from your darkest times. I think that’s why this tournament has been so important to me. I’ve learned so much with all my experiences, the good, bad, everything in between I’ve been able to learn from.”