Maria Sakkari reached her second grand slam semi-final of the year after upstaging fourth seed Karolina Pliskova 6-4 6-4 at the US Open.

Sakkari made history at this year's French Open, where she became the first Greek woman to reach a grand slam singles semi-final.

The 17th seed continued her impressive 2021 with a straight-sets victory over former world number one and 2016 US Open finalist Pliskova in New York on Wednesday.

After one hour, 21 minutes on court, Sakkari will face high-flying English teenager Emma Raducanu for a spot in the Flushing Meadows decider.

Pliskova entered the quarter-final, having rediscovered her best form after a slow start to the season – the Czech star claimed just 15 wins from her first 12 WTA Tour tournaments before winning 19 matches from five events, reaching two finals, since the start of July.

But Sakkari proved too good on Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the 26-year-old utilised her almost flawless serve.

Sakkari lost just two points on serve in the opening set – claiming 92 per cent of her first serves, while hitting 12 winners and clinching the decisive break.

Pliskova owned three top-20 wins this season as she was looking to emulate countrywoman Hana Mandlikova, who won the US Open in 1985.

But the second set followed a similar pattern, Sakkari tallying 10 winners while winning 11 of her 12 first serves, closing out the match at the third time of asking.

 

Data Slam: Sakkari matches career high

With her dominant win over Pliskova, Sakkari – who did not face a break point – tallied her 31st victory of the year. It equalled her best return from 2019, when she finished with a 31-23 win-loss record.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Pliskova – 14/20
Sakkari – 22/12

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Pliskova – 6/3
Sakkari – 4/1

BREAK POINTS WON

Pliskova – 0/0
Sakkari – 2/5

World number one Ash Barty reached yet another final on Saturday at the Western and Southern Open, where she will face wildcard Jil Teichmann.

Barty is through to her sixth title match of the season – and first in Cincinnati – after beating Angelique Kerber in straight sets.

In action on the WTA Tour for the first time since winning at Wimbledon, having gone to the Tokyo Olympics in the intervening period, the Australian came through a sloppy spell in the second set to advance 6-2 7-5.

Teichmann is next, taking on Barty for the first time after a stunning run continued with victory over Karolina Pliskova.

The world number 76 had already eliminated Naomi Osaka and Belinda Bencic and was a deserving 6-2 6-4 winner against Pliskova.

Barty finds the balance

Barty had been racing towards victory when she took the opener on Kerber's serve, her second break, and then went 2-0 up in the second.

But Kerber gave the favourite a scare by winning each of the next three games, belatedly finding joy against the Barty serve.

The All England Club champion has won more matches than any other player on tour this year, though, and regained her composure to break twice more for a 39th triumph of 2021.

"It's never, ever a walk in the park against Angie," Barty said. "She's an exceptional competitor and I think early on in that second set she went to another gear and it took me a few games to go with her.

"That was the change – she was able to lift her game and, even though there were some close games, she won the big points early on in the second set.

"I'm glad that I was able to find a way through there in the end.

"I had to find the balance of being aggressive and not getting too passive and letting Angie dictate.

"She moves exceptionally well, puts the balls in difficult positions, and I felt like when I was able to control the court I did a better job.

"In the games I got broken, she just saw too many second serves and was able to be assertive.

"I'm really happy to get through in the end, and to be playing for a title here in Cincinnati is awesome."

'Random' run wears on

Despite facing three seeds in succession, Teichmann has not dropped a set since losing the first against Osaka in the last 16.

Continuing that sequence against Barty will be a tough ask, but few would have anticipated Pliskova being brushed aside quite so easily.

Teichmann herself has no explanation for a sensational run of form.

"It's tough to explain," she said. "When I ask my coaches what they think of me, they always say, 'You're just an unexpected person, you do random things', so I guess that's one of them.

"I'm feeling really, really good here, the conditions, serving good, moving well, when I can I attack, I defend... What I'm feeling here, I cannot even describe it.

"It's a dream. I'm playing centre court, a final against the world number one. I cannot ask for anything else."

Ash Barty reached her sixth semi-final of the year after winning the battle of grand slam champions against Barbora Krejcikova at the Western & Southern Open.

World number one and top seed Barty – the Wimbledon titleholder – dispatched French Open champion Krejcikova in straight sets in Cincinnati on Friday.

Another slam champion awaits Barty in the form of Angelique Kerber, while wildcard Jil Teichmann continued her fairytale run with victory over Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic.

 

Coffee the tonic for in-form Barty

Australian star Barty was too good for Krejcikova, winning 6-2 6-4 at the WTA 1000 tournament.

Barty had to battle from a break down in the second set against the fast-rising Krejcikova, who has shot up from 65th in the world to a career high of number 10 this year.

After extending her season record to 38-7, Barty talked about the importance of drinking coffee in the morning.

"I travel with a French press and an AeroPress, just to have two options. Usually every tournament we go to, one of us has a cafe that we have been to before, so I have got a little section of all my local cafes from the tournaments, so we try and get out to those if we can," she said.

"This year, some places we haven't been able to; some places we have. It's been nice to get some sort of a mixture, but I'm pretty simple. I'm just a black coffee cup in the morning, and then I'm set."

Three-time major champion Kerber is next up after she was 6-4 3-3 ahead before Petra Kvitova retired hurt due to a stomach problem.

 

Teichmann takes down another star

Unheralded Swiss and world number 76 Teichmann claimed another scalp, this time upstaging countrywoman Bencic 6-3 6-2 in the quarter-finals.

Teichmann stunned world number two Naomi Osaka en route to the quarters and maintained her giant-slaying form in Cincinnati, where 10th seed Bencic became the latest victim.

"We hugged before the match; we hugged after the match," Teichmann said of the Bencic meeting. "We know that once we step on court it's business, it's just another player I have to deal with, and she had the same mindset. At the beginning it's obviously a bit special, but once we're in it, we just look at the game, not looking at the opponent, or at least I do that way."

Teichmann will take on fifth seed Karolina Pliskova, who advanced to her second successive WTA 1000 semi-final after Paula Badosa retired down 7-5 2-0.

Unseeded Camila Giorgi again surprised Karolina Pliskova as she earned a straight-sets win in Sunday's National Bank Open final to claim the third singles title of her career.

The world number 71 defeated Pliskova at the Viking International and the Tokyo Olympics in the past three months and prevailed 6-3 7-5 in their latest meeting in Montreal.

Giorgi, who had never previously won a trophy above 250 level or on outdoor hard courts, has now triumphed in 16 of her last 20 matches in an impressive 2021 campaign.

She lost just one set all week and will move back into the world's top 35 for the first time since May 2019 with this first tournament victory since the Linz Open in October 2018.

 

Fourth seed Pliskova eliminated favourite Aryna Sabalenka in the semi-finals but could not replicate that performance as she fell at the final hurdle in a tournament for the third time this year.

Giorgi broke the former world number one for the first time in a lengthy fifth game and took the first set when Pliskova double faulted and sent a forehand wide in the final game.

Pliskova double faulted six times across the match, which lasted one hour and 40 minutes, including in the fourth game of the second set to put her opponent in complete control.

The Czech was given hope when earning her first break of serve in the following game, but she was let down by some forehand errors in the 12th game and Giorgi took her second championship point to seal an emotional win.

Karolina Pliskova will face unseeded Italian Camila Giorgi in the National Bank Open final after beating top seed Aryna Sabalenka in the last four.

An intriguing semi-final pitted two of the favourites against one another in Montreal and it was Pliskova, the fourth seed, who came out on top 6-3 6-4.

The Wimbledon finalist broke early in the first and then clinched the set on Sabalenka's serve, too, although she was made to work a little harder in the second.

Pliskova fell behind in the seventh game, but she responded by winning three straight games to wrap up victory.

"It's an amazing feeling to be in another final this year," Pliskova said.

"I think I was super solid today. I just did everything what I was supposed to do to win this match, played smart.

"My serve was pretty good, I have to say."

Indeed, the Czech landed 71 per cent of her first serves in – with 10 aces to two double faults – helping her to win 69 per cent of her service points.

World number 71 Giorgi progressed to the decider with a three-set win over Jessica Pegula in two hours and 11 minutes.

The 6-3 3-6 6-1 win means the Italian qualified for her first career WTA 1000 final.

Giorgi had toppled seventh seed Petra Kvitova, ninth seed Elise Mertens and 15th seed Cori Gauff on her route to the decider.

Top seed Aryna Sabalenka and fourth-seeded Karolina Pliskova set up a tantalising semi-final clash with straight-set wins Friday at the National Bank Open. 

Sabalenka had little trouble with fellow Belarusian Victoria Azarenka in a 6-2 6-4 victory in Montreal, firing seven aces and winning 74.3 per cent of points on her first serve. 

It was Sabalenka's 38th win this season, the most of any WTA player. Another triumph on Saturday would vault world number three Sabalenka past Naomi Osaka and into second in the rankings next week. 

To achieve that, she will have to defeat the only other seeded player remaining in Pliskova as the two stage a rematch of their Wimbledon semi-final won by the Czech.

The world number six downed Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain 6-4 6-0 to reach the semis for the first time in six trips to the Canadian tournament. 

While Pliskova twice failed to hold her serve in the opening set, she converted all three of her own break point chances before going on to dominate the second set. 

The other semi-final will feature a pair of unseeded players. 

Italy's Camila Giorgi continued her run of upsets in the tournament, knocking out 15th seed Coco Gauff 6-4 7-6 (7-2). 

In the last quarter-final of the day, Jessica Pegula took down 13th seed Ons Jabeur 1-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-0 in a match of wild momentum swings. 

Pegula went the distance for the fourth consecutive match in Montreal, though at one hour, 28 minutes Friday's affair was a full hour shorter than her round of 16 epic with Danielle Collins. 

 

Local hope and reigning champion Bianca Andreescu blew an early lead as she was toppled by Ons Jabeur in the Round of 16 at the National Bank Open in Montreal.

Tunisian 13th seed Jabeur defeated the Canadian second seed 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-1 in two hours and 39 minutes on Thursday.

The come-from-behind triumph was the second time in two matches that the Tunisian has rallied from a set down to win after beating Daria Kasatkina in three.

Jabeur had twice been a break up in the opening set before Andreescu claimed it in an tiebreak.

The 26-year-old Tunisian, who made the Wimbledon quarter-finals this year, responded by breaking at 5-4 to win the second set.

After Andreescu had an injury scare after landing awkwardly on her left foot late in the second set, Jabeur dominated the third, finishing by winning eight of the final nine games.

Jabeur finished with 9-3 aces and was more effective on serve, going at an 81.6 win percentage on her first serve (40 from 49 points).

The lower side of the draw has opened up for the Tunisian who will face Jessica Pegula in the quarter-finals after the unseeded American defeated countrywoman Danielle Collins 6-4 3-6 7-5.

Two-time Wimbledon champion and seventh seed Petra Kvitova was knocked out in a shock by Italian Camila Giorgi in straight sets.

Giorgi, ranked 71st in the world, won 6-4 6-4 in one hour and 36 minutes and will face Cori Gauff in the quarter-finals after she had another walkover against Johanna Konta.

Top seed Aryna Sabalenka had no such problems, cruising past Canadian Rebecca Marino 6-1 6-3 inside an hour.

Sabalenka sets up a quarter-final clash with fellow Belarussian and two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka.

Azarenka got past Greek 11th seed Maria Sakkari in three sets, 6-4 3-6 7-6 (7-2).

Fourth seed Karolina Pliskova got past Amanda Anisimova 6-1 7-6 (10-8) and will play Sara Sorribes Tormo in the last eight after she won in three sets over Katerina Siniakova.

Naomi Osaka was never preordained to win gold at the Tokyo Olympics but it had felt that way until she ran into Marketa Vondrousova.

The surprising 6-1 6-4 loss that a lacklustre Osaka suffered on Tuesday could be explained away by the fact the 23-year-old had not played any competitive tennis since pulling out of the French Open at the end of May.

All the same, it was a major upset as world number 42 Vondrousova took out the highest remaining seed in the draw – the Japanese star who lit the Olympic cauldron on Friday.

Osaka's exit, after previous shock defeats for top seed Ash Barty and number three Aryna Sabalenka, has raised the prospect of a shock champion, just as occurred five years ago at the Rio Games when Monica Puig of Puerto Rico caused a sensation.

Now at the quarter-final stage, there is one former grand slam champion left in the field and two finalists at that level, but it really looks like anyone's title.


VONDROUSOVA SENSES AN OPPORTUNITY

It was remarkably straightforward for Vondrousova at Ariake Tennis Park, as she cruised through the opening set and soon reeled in Osaka's early break in the second.

Osaka saved two match points when serving to stay in the contest, but not a third, planting a backhand wide.

Considering Vondrousova reached the French Open final two years ago, in front of packed grandstands rather than the empty seats in Tokyo, it was no surprise she hesitated when asked whether this win over Osaka was the biggest of her career. It probably doesn't have that cachet, good a win though it was.

"Of course it's one of the biggest," Vondrousova said.

"Naomi is a great player, she has so many grand slams, so I knew it would be a tough match. But I'm just very happy with my play. I played amazingly in the first set, and then the second set was really tough. I'm just happy to be through.

"I think she was struggling a bit with my serving. Also, I use drop-shots very well. I'm just very happy with my game today."

She faces Spain Paula Badosa next and said: "It's very open now. I think every girl is playing really well. Now it's the quarter-final, so we'll see."


HAS SVITOLINA'S TIME ARRIVED?

A fixture in the top 10 over recent seasons, Svitolina has been unable to transfer her regular tour form onto the major stage on a consistent basis.

Maybe the Olympics will be a platform towards success on that stage, with Svitolina now the highest seed remaining in the draw, at number four. The Ukrainian is also on a high on the personal front, having married French tennis star Gael Monfils shortly before heading to Tokyo.

Two semi-finals, at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2019, have been her deepest runs in the majors, and this season has been one of diminishing returns, with a fourth-round run in Australia followed by a third-round Roland Garros exit and a round-two loss at Wimbledon.

Svitolina beat Maria Sakkari of Greece 5-7 6-3 6-4 on Tuesday, setting up a quarter-final against Italian Camila Giorgi who won 6-4 6-2 against Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova.

"I don't think I'm a favourite because there are lots of good players here and everyone is quite equal," Svitolina said.


A MUG SHOT?

Should Spain's Garbine Muguruza be considered the favourite from this point? With French Open and Wimbledon titles in her trophy room, Muguruza has shown she has what it takes to triumph on a big stage, and a clinical 6-4 6-1 win over Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck on Tuesday was just the job.

She goes on to face Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, who edged past Croatian Donna Vekic.

Belinda Bencic of Switzerland caused a surprise by ousting the in-form reigning French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, springing a 1-6 6-2 6-3 win that means there will be no repeat of the Roland Garros final in the quarter-finals.

That had been on the cards, but Bencic will be the player who takes on Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for a place in the final four.

Pavlyuchenkova scored an impressive 6-1 6-3 victory over Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain, the player who knocked out Barty in round one.

Russian Olympic Committee's Pavyluchenkova is looking to harness the form that took her to a maiden slam final, describing her Paris run as "a great experience to have".

"But every week is a new week and this is a new event," said the 30-year-old. "The Olympic Games is a very special event. It's different. It's nothing like the others."

The wobbles of Wimbledon struck Karolina Pliskova and Ash Barty in a women's final that delivered devilish drama and a marvellously charismatic new champion.

Barty's big moment at the All England Club has finally arrived, the world number one making good on the aim she publicly set herself by landing the second grand slam of a career that could yield many more.

As she joyfully paraded the Venus Rosewater Dish around Centre Court, it hardly mattered that the 25-year-old had staggered across the winning line.

When she raced up to the players' box to hug coach Craig Tyzzer and boyfriend Garry Kissick, they were not asking why she had not got the job done in straight sets.

When Barty's thoughts turned to her hero Evonne Goolagong, and tears began to flow, all that mattered to the Queenslander was that she had achieved her tennis destiny.

But what a curious contest this was, a first women's Wimbledon singles final to go to a third set since 2012, yet it would take a real optimist – Barty, for instance – to define it as a classic.

At least it was a contest. That had been in doubt when Pliskova lost the opening 14 points. It was 4-0 in just 12 minutes, at which stage memories of the Czech's 6-0 6-0 drubbing by Iga Swiatek in May's Rome final came to mind.

Pliskova did not fire a single winner in the first six games. Barty surged a set and 3-1 ahead in 45 minutes, a 13th straight-sets women's final in the last 14 Wimbledon championships seemingly inevitable.

The pre-match favourite's nerve was holding, or so it seemed, but when Pliskova held serve to trail only 3-2 the players had split the last 10 games, and that suggested a pivot in the flow of the contest was still possible.

Rudyard Kipling's encouragement to keep your head while others might be losing theirs is engrained in Wimbledon tradition, yet doing so on the big stage is easier prescribed than achieved.

This title match was painfully short on consistent quality, with more unforced errors than winners overall (Barty: 30/29, Pliskova: 27/32) as the pressure of the occasion affected the two first-time finalists. Movie star Tom Cruise was in the crowd, and a plot twist was coming.

A chant of "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie" went up at 5-5 in the second set, and Pliskova went on to drop serve from 40-love, missing a straightforward enough backhand volley at the net when she had the chance to close out the game.

Serving for the title, Barty played her worst tennis of the match, and when Pliskova powered through the tie-break those still awake Down Under must have been suddenly fearing the worst.

Serving first in the third set, Barty took a look down the other end and must have been thinking: "What are you still doing here?"

But Barty swiftly established a break, Pliskova volleying lamentably into the net from close range, and this time the Aussie nerve held.

She fired an ace to bring up a first match point and the title was hers when Pliskova drove a backhand into the net, her 32nd unforced error of the match.

Having held serve in 57 of her 61 service games up to the final, Pliskova was broken six times.

Barty won the girls' Wimbledon tournament in 2011 and 10 years later has achieved a rare double by adding the women's title, joining Ann Jones, Martina Hingis and Amelie Mauresmo as the only players to do so in the Open Era.

She has joined Margaret Court and Goolagong in becoming a women's champion for Australia at the All England Club, and Barty holds the latter in the highest regard.

They share an indigenous background, and 50 years after Goolagong landed the first of her two Wimbledon titles, Barty did just enough to fend off Pliskova and add her own name to the board of champions.

Barty called it "an exceptional match right from the start", and that verdict can probably be put down to the adrenaline of being a newly crowned champion.

She also spoke of having managed precious little sleep ahead of the match, which might explain some of the erratic side of her performance.

And then the BBC's Sue Barker asked her about Goolagong.

"I hope I made Evonne proud," Barty said, the first tears beginning to stream.

Barty has left home to pursue this dream, having chosen to spend almost all of 2020 back in Greater Springfield, near Brisbane, away from the world's worst COVID-19 crises.

Her family have remained in Australia, and Barty has made the trip worth it with this triumph.

"I know they're at home watching. I miss them, I love them," Barty said. "I can't wait to get home to them in a few months' time and really celebrate."

She suggested celebrations in her bubble would be "low key". The Barty party will have to wait.

An emotional Ash Barty said she hoped she had done Evonne Goolagong Cawley after realising her dream of winning Wimbledon with a battling defeat of Karolina Pliskova.

The world number one became the first Australian woman to be crowned champion at the All England Club since her mentor Goolagong Cawley 41 years ago with a 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 victory.

Barty won the opening 14 points of the match as she handled the nerves better than eighth seed Pliskova on Saturday.

Pliskova fought back from a break down twice to win the second set, but the top seed regrouped to claim a second grand slam title two years after her first at the French Open.

The Queensland native is only the fourth junior Wimbledon champion to go on and win the women's title and her triumph came 50 years after Goolagong Cawley's maiden success at SW19.

An emotional Barty said in her on-court interview: "This is incredible. I have to start with Kaja [Pliskova]. Congratulations on an incredible tournament to you and your team. I love testing myself against you and I'm sure we'll have many many matches.

"I want to thank everyone in this stadium. You've made my dream so special, thank you very much.

"My team is incredible and they've been with me every step of the way, and for them to be able to travel with me and essentially be away from home for eight or nine months.

"Craig [her coach Tyzzer] is our captain. He is exceptional at what he does and I love him to death.

"It took me a long time to verbalise, to dare to dream it and say it. I didn't sleep a lot last night, I was thinking of all the what-ifs. I hope I made Evonne proud."

It was a second defeat in a major final for former world number one Pliskova, who was also beaten in the 2016 US Open championship match.

World number one Ash Barty became the first Australian woman to win Wimbledon for 41 years by beating Karolina Pliskova in a tense battle on Centre Court.

The top seed realised her dream of being crowned champion at the All England Club for the first time in a rollercoaster 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 victory.

Pliskova warmed to the task after making a nightmare start in a clash between two first-time finalists at SW19, but Barty was not to be denied her second grand slam title two years after her first at the French Open.

The Queenslander ended a wait for an Australian woman to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish that stretched back to 1980, when her mentor Evonne Goolagong Cawley won the title.

Pliskova fought back from a break down twice to win the second set, yet Barty regrouped to become only the fourth junior Wimbledon champion to go on and win the women's title.

Barty began with a commanding hold and followed that up with a break to love, sealed with a backhand winner down the line following a sumptuous lob.

A second Barty ace put her 3-0 up and although Pliskova finally won a first point at the 15th attempt, a tentative double fault left the favourite only two games away from wrapping up the first set.

Pliskova was finally on the board at 4-1 when the favourite was broken in an error-strewn game, but the Czech's usually venomous serve was not firing and Barty served out the set at the second attempt.

The 2016 US Open runner-up continued to look uncertain, with Barty taking advantage to go a break up at 2-1, but Pliskova hit back impressively, unleashing a thunderous forehand winner down the line and sealing a swift break back when Barty netted a forehand.

There was a raise of the left hand from Pliskova following a scorching backhand winner during a comfortable hold and although a poor backhand left her 6-5 down, Barty was unable to serve out the match.

Pliskova played with an increasing level of freedom, demonstrating her incredible power with deep, fearsome groundstrokes in a tie-break that ended with a double fault from Barty. 

The former world number one gifted the momentum back to Barty when she missed a simple volley at the net to trail 2-0 in the decider.

Pliskova showed flashes of brilliance as she made Barty, who withdrew from the French Open last month with a hip injury, work until the end, but served it out, sealing victory when her opponent netted a backhand.

Ash Barty will lean on the tough lessons that Wimbledon has taught her over the years when she tackles Karolina Pliskova on Centre Court in the women's final.

A decade has slipped by since a 15-year-old Barty won the girls' singles title, and now she and Pliskova will do battle for the Venus Rosewater Dish.

Saturday's final is a clash of the player with the most aces on the women's tour this year (Barty: 255) and the tournament leader for that metric (Pliskova: 54).

Pliskova will likely be a tough nut to crack, having won 57 of her 61 service games for a 93 per cent strike rate, with the Czech the only player in the draw above 90 per cent in that crucial component.

Both players will be making their debut in a Wimbledon women's singles final, the first time that has happened at the All England Club since 1977, when Virginia Wade beat Betty Stove.

 

World number one Barty will become just the fourth player in the Open Era to win both girls' and women's singles titles at Wimbledon should she get the job done, after Ann Jones, Martina Hingis and Amelie Mauresmo.

It has been quite a journey to this point for the Australian, who after her early impact in the game stepped away from tennis for almost two years after the 2014 US Open. She played Big Bash League cricket and only returned to tennis at Eastbourne in 2016, gradually ascending to the summit and winning the 2019 French Open title for a maiden senior grand slam.

There have been painful defeats along the way on grass, her favourite surface, including a loss to Daria Kasatkina in the third round in 2018 and to Alison Riske from a set up in the fourth round a year later.

Barty was the top seed at that edition of Wimbledon in 2019, as she is this year, and there is no doubt she would be an exciting champion, a player who seems to only bring positivity to tennis, albeit she pointed to some bleak moments in her past ahead of the tussle with Pliskova.

"I think Wimbledon for me has been an amazing place of learning," Barty said. "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.

"Just to be able to keep chipping away, keep putting yourself out there, let yourself be vulnerable, just be yourself, knowing that everything that comes with that is an opportunity to learn. I think that's been a massive one for us this fortnight."

The first thing that was said to Barty in a news conference after she won the girls' title in 2011 was: "You're not a very demonstrative winner."

How this grounded Queenslander might react to winning on Saturday remains to be seen. Pliskova certainly has the weaponry to mean a Barty victory is far from a foregone conclusion.

Pliskova would be the fifth oldest first-time grand slam winner in the Open Era should she prevail, with the 29-year-old having previous experience of winning titles on grass at Eastbourne (2017 and 2019) and Nottingham (2016).

"It's a final. Anything can happen," Pliskova said of the Barty match-up. "I know she has a grand slam, but also for her it is the first Wimbledon final.

"I think we both have good chances. It's going to be hopefully a good match to watch as well because with her it's always interesting. We going to see what's going to happen.

"I never played a horrible match against her."

 

Pliskova and Barty have met seven times across their careers, starting from a minor ITF event in Nottingham in 2012, which went the Australian's way, the then 16-year-old edging a final-set tie-break.

Barty has also won their last three matches, reflecting her rise to the top and former world number one's Pliskova's slight career dip.

"Of course she makes you feel a bit ugly with the game which she's playing," Pliskova said. "Also I had, like, a lot of chances the last match we played. I think I had match point or was serving for the match. I know there's going to be many chances for me, as well."

That match took place in Stuttgart in April of this year and did indeed go close, Barty closing it out 7-5 in the deciding set of the quarter-final and going on to take the title. She has three tournament wins this year, a tour-high.

Barty is sure to stay at number one on Monday, a 77th consecutive week in the top spot and 84th overall in her career, while Pliskova can jump from 13th to fourth with the title. She will move to seventh should she be runner-up.

The red-hot favourite is Barty, but Pliskova is comfortable with that.

"You want to play the best player in the final," she said. "Of course, I don't want anybody else but her there."

Karolina Pliskova says it "can't be any better" than facing Ash Barty in a battle of two first-time Wimbledon finalists after fighting back to beat Aryna Sabalenka.

Pliskova is just one victory away from her maiden grand slam title following a 5-7 6-4 6-4 semi-final defeat of powerful second seed Sabalenka on Centre Court.

World number one Barty earlier moved into her first championship match at the All England Club with a 6-3 7-6 (7-3) win over Angelique Kerber.

Eighth seed Pliskova expressed her pride over the achievement of moving into uncharted territory and is relishing the opportunity to take on her Australian foe.

The Czech said of the challenge of facing Barty: "It can't be any better than that. You want to play the best player in the final. Of course, I don't want anybody else but [Barty] there.

"We had some good matches. Of course, I lost a couple times, but I think she has an extremely difficult game to play. It's going to be difficult on grass because of her slice and just her game overall.

"It's a final. Anything can happen. I know she has a grand slam, but also for her it's the first Wimbledon final. I think we both have good chances.

"It's going to be hopefully a good match to watch as well because with her it's always interesting. We're going to see what's going to happen."

 

Saturday's showpiece will be the first time two players who have never played in a Wimbledon final fight it out for the Venus Rosewater Dish since 1977.

Former world number one Pliskova: "It's amazing to be in the final. It's an incredible achievement. It was an amazing match from both of us.

"I had so many chances in the first set and got a bit frustrated, but she was serving unbelievable. A lot of credit to her, but super happy that I managed to find the way to win.

"It's tough to enjoy it when she's playing so fast that you don't have time to think about what you want to do. There were some good rallies.

"I stayed focused. It was close. I stayed calm and positive, trusting in myself and my game. I'm proud."

Karolina Pliskova roared back to win the power battle against Aryna Sabalenka and book a first appearance in a Wimbledon final where she will face Ash Barty.

Thursday's second semi-final lived up to its billing as a clash of two of the WTA's most ferocious competitors, and it was eighth seed Pliskova who triumphed 5-7 6-4 6-4 on Centre Court.

There were 32 aces in total in a match where long rallies were scarce. Ultimately, though, it was Pliskova's supreme consistency – she gave up just one break-point opportunity – that won the day.

Sabalenka offered up eight break-point chances alone in a fierce first set, but Pliskova barely had a sniff on any of those as textbook power serving from her opponent kept the Czech at bay.

Conversely, Pliskova sailed through her own service games with ease until trailing 6-5 when, after an exquisite sequence from Sabalenka brought up a first break point, she blinked with a double fault to cede the opening set.

Undeterred, the turning point came in game five of the second set when Pliskova broke to love before consolidating with three straight aces and Sabalenka going long.

Having won that only break point of the second set, Pliskova stole the advantage in game one of the decider as a couple of Sabalenka errors were followed by a backhand into the net.

To her credit, second seed Sabalenka forced Pliskova to serve out for the match, which she did somewhat fittingly with a mammoth ace.

 

Data slam: More aces than a playing card factory

Pliskova's consistency on serve was always likely to be crucial to her chances of victory in a battle between two real power hitters. Prior to this semi-final she led the way for aces (40) in the tournament and had only been broken three times. Here she was out-aced 18 to 14 but had a slightly better first-serve points won percentage (78 to 75) and significantly better on the second-serve points won (69 to 48). In a match where opportunities were always likely to be at a premium, it proved significant.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Pliskova – 32/17
Sabalenka – 38/20

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Pliskova – 14/4
Sabalenka – 18/4

BREAK POINTS WON

Pliskova – 2/10
Sabalenka – 1/1

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