Barty into first Wimbledon final, Pliskova and Sabalenka clash in big-hitting semi

London (AFP) –


Ashleigh Barty is one victory away from realising her dream of winning the Wimbledon title on the 50th anniversary of fellow indigenous Australian Evonne Goolagong Cawley's first triumph.

The 25-year-old world number one produced her best performance of The Championships so far to beat 2018 champion Angelique Kerber 6-3, 7-6 (7/3).

Barty will play either former world number one Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic or Belarusian second seed Aryna Sabalenka in Saturday's final.

Barty had never progressed further than the fourth round at Wimbledon despite having form on grass as she was junior champion in 2011.

However, she took the first set with just the one break of serve and then showed real determination to turn around a 1-4 deficit and force the tie-break where she had six match points.

Kerber saved three but it was only delaying the inevitable and soon it was Barty who raised her arms in celebration and placed her racquet over her head as the moment sank in.

"It's incredible, it was as close to as good a tennis match that I have ever played," said Barty who fired eight aces and 38 winners.

"It was a hell of a match from the first ball."

"I am really proud of myself and my team. It's been an incredible journey, full of ups and downs."

Kerber can, though, be pleased with her run despite Barty ending a 10-match winning streak for the 33-year-old German.

The grass had revived a career that appeared to be spiralling downwards -- she had failed to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final since her 2018 Wimbledon title.

- 'Huge drama' -

Pliskova has never doubted herself despite dropping out of the top 10 -- she is ranked 13 -- after being a regular since 2016.

A first appearance in a Wimbledon semi-final has justified that self-belief -- she is yet to drop a set and has only had her serve broken three times.

The 29-year-old Czech has hit 40 aces and she served one with full force directed at her doubters after she beat Swiss Viktorija Golubic on Tuesday.

"The Internet is the biggest problem," said Pliskova who had failed to get to the second week of a Slam in her last five outings.

"Not that I would really read all the messages and all the comments, but sometimes you just see something or like some articles.

"I think they can be quite brutal. I was five years in the top 10. Then one week I'm not in the top 10, and it's like huge drama, especially in my country."

Sabalenka has defied the sceptics questioning her second seed status as she has broken new ground in reaching the last four having never before got past the fourth round of a major.

The 23-year-old's tiger tattoo on her left thigh -- due to her being born in 1998 the Year of the Tiger -- led to her parents not speaking to her for a week.

However, she has lived up to the image of the tiger both in power and fighting spirit in eye-catching wins in the past two rounds over Elena Rybakina and Ons Jabeur to earn her place in the last four.

Pliskova will need no reminding of the 23-year-old Sabalenka's battling qualities.

When they last met in Cincinnati in 2018 Sabalenka beat Pliskova having saved two match points.