LONDON: 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 No.1 produced her best performance of The Championships so far to beat 2018 champion Angelique Kerber 6-3, 7-6 (7-3).

Barty will play former world No.1 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic in Saturday’s final.

Pliskova came from a set down to beat powerful Belar­usian second seed Aryna Sabalenka 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

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.

“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.”

However, as she has done since the outset she wore the specially-designed dress in tribute to her mentor’s iconic scallop one she wore in 1971.

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 final has justified that self-belief — and dropping her first set of The Championships will be a minor irritant.

Pliskova had never been beyond the fourth round at Wimbledon but showed great resilience in coming from behind to beat Sabalenka.

She managed to get over the disappointment of both failing to take any of the eight break points that she secured in the first set and losing it to battle it out toe-to-toe with Sabalenka.

Sabalenka might have been second seed but she had gone into previously undiscovered Wimbledon waters — a second-round turn in 2017 her previous best on three visits.

However, Pliskova’s perhaps greater experience — Wimbledon completed the full house of Grand Slam singles semi-finals — told in the end.

Late on Wednesday, Matteo Berrettini became only the second Italian man to reach the semi-finals after powering past Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 5-7, 7-5, 6-3.

The big-serving seventh seed has flown somewhat under the radar throughout the Championships, but is now eyeing a place in Sunday’s final after another impressive display.

In truth, the 25-year-old could have claimed a fourth successive straight-sets’ win but for a counter-attack by 20-year-old Auger-Aliassime in the second set.

But his mighty first serve, scorching the No.1 Court turf at an average of 127mph, and a thunderous forehand eventually helped Berrettini overwhelm the 20-year-old.

In his second Grand Slam semi-final, following a run to the last four at the 2019 US Open, Berrettini will face Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz who took out eight-time champion Roger Federer.

Victory would see him contest the Wimbledon final on the same day that Italy play in the Euro 2020 football final a few miles down the road at Wembley.

The only other Italian man to reach the last four at Wimbledon was Nicola Pietra­ngeli in 1960.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2021

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