Tuesday, January 18

Ashleigh Barty overtakes Angelique Kerber to reach first Wimbledon final | Wimbledon


The first thing to know about Ashleigh Barty is that she loves weed. She won the women’s title here when she was 15 a decade ago, has a game that is perfectly suited to fast, low rebounding, and has often said that she spends much of the season counting down the days until the grass arrives. again. While Barty tends to be wary of revealing many of his ambitions out loud, before the tournament he made it clear that winning the title was his ultimate ambition.

Such an affinity with any tournament can come with increased pressure, but over the past 10 days he has lived up to the moment he needed it. Against the fit player, Barty produced one of the highest quality big game performances of her career, beating former champion Angelique Kerber 6-3, 7-6 (3) to reach her first Wimbledon final.

After the glorious chaos of the French Open, which produced four Grand Slam semi-finalists for the first time, the unpredictability of the women’s game is such that three weeks later, the final stages here could hardly be more orderly. Of the four semi-finalists, Barty is number one in the world, Kerber and Karolina Pliskova are former number one and Aryna Sabalenka is the second seeded.

This scenario presented an interesting experience for Barty. In her previous two Grand Slam semifinals, Barty had been the most successful player on the court and the favorite to win. Both games were affected by the nerves of all the players, the contests wavered in quality.

It is completely different to go up against a player as experienced as Kerber, who has reached these deep stages of grand slam many more times before, has won three titles, and would almost certainly produce a sufficient level of play under pressure. Barty had no choice but to play the best he could and he did.

She hit 38 winners and 16 unforced errors, losing her serve once. One of the clearest battles was the competition between serve and return, with Barty reaching the semi-finals without serving as well as she could while Kerber has dismantled all serves before her.

No player had more than 62% of first serve points against Kerber all week, including Coco Gauff, who dropped countless 120mph bombs on center court. Behind a gigantic serve, Barty finished with 88% of points gained from the first serve, losing five of 41 points on his first serve.

Barty started the game by saving a break point with an angled forehand winner. During the first set, he hit his forehand purely and with such freedom that he dominated the baseline. Almost every major game was scored by a shot destined for the featured reels.

Ashleigh Barty serves for Angelique Kerber.
Ashleigh Barty serves for Angelique Kerber. Photograph: Tom Jenkins / The Guardian

Barty broke serve for 2-0 with a forehand on the winning line straight off a Kerber smash, then closed a grip for 5-2 with a backhand that died on the grass. After suffering in his last service game of the set, Barty closed it out with an ace.

There was always going to be an answer and it came as Kerber quickly took an early break in the second set and ran for the lead. Kerber forced himself to climb over the baseline and without hesitation changed direction along the line of both wings, finding depth relentlessly with his backhand.

In parts of the second set, the quality was in the stratosphere with two world champions and two slam champions on their favorite surface going head-to-head. But mistakes were never too far from Kerber’s game, as he continued to push hard. They slipped late when she failed to pull the set at 5-3 and Barty returned to the match. From 4-5, Barty took control again, strengthening his serve and attacking the forehand winners through the tiebreaker and victory.

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Somehow Barty will hope that he never makes it to Wimbledon like he did this year. After her hip injury and retirement at the French Open, she was pushed into a race against time just to get ready. Without a previous tournament on grass, the first few rounds here doubled as his warm-up event and, although he went ahead with the loss of a set, the necessary adjustments were clear.

The best champions, however, have thrived in a variety of difficult circumstances. This year, Barty has handled all the challenges of the tournament that she has been desperate to win for so long. Fifty years after the triumph of Evonne Goolagong, the opportunity has been given to do so.


www.theguardian.com

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