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Wimbledon 2021: Ashleigh Barty to face Karolina Pliskova in final

Wimbledon 2021: Ashleigh Barty to face Karolina Pliskova in final thumbnail
After two wins each in their previous four meetings, Barty won the first Grand Slam meeting between the pair
Venue: All England Club Dates: 28 June-11 July
Coverage: Live across BBC TV, radio and online with extensive coverage on BBC iPlayer, Red Button, Connected TVs and mobile app. Full details here

World number one Ashleigh Barty will play Czech eighth seed Karolina Pliskova in Saturday’s Wimbledon final.

Australian Barty beat former champion Angelique Kerber 6-3 7-6 (7-3) before Pliskova came from a set down to defeat Aryna Sabalenka 5-7 6-4 6-4.

It will be a first final at the All England Club for both Barty, 25, and 29-year-old Pliskova.

“I get the chance on Saturday to live out a total dream,” said Barty, who has not lost a set since the opening round.

The top seed added: “This is incredible. This is as close to a good tennis match I will play. Angie brought the best out of me and I knew I had to be at my best.”

Barty has the upper hand on Pliskova in their previous meetings, winning five of seven.

In the most recent of those, in the Stuttgart quarter-finals earlier this year, Barty came from a set down to win in three.

It is Pliskova’s second Grand Slam final, having finished as runner-up at the US Open in 2016, while 2019 French Open champion Barty is chasing her second major title.

It is the first Wimbledon women’s singles final featuring two first-time SW19 finalists since 1977 when Britain’s Virginia Wade beat Dutchwoman Betty Stove.

“Until now, I hadn’t passed the fourth round and now I’m in the final,” said Pliskova. “I think it’s an incredible achievement.

“It was an amazing match from both of us.”

Barty so close to emulating her idol Goolagong

Barty has long spoken of her dream of winning Wimbledon and is now one more victory away from achieving it – on the 50th anniversary of her idol Evonne Goolagong’s first SW19 triumph.

The run has come after Barty allayed fears she might not even be fit to play at the All England Club. She was managing a hip injury at the French Open which led to her retiring from her second-round match at Roland Garros.

Coming into the tournament, she said she was fit and ready – and so it has proved.

She is the first Australian to reach the women’s final since Goolagong lifted her second title at the All England Club in 1980.

While Barty won her maiden Grand Slam on the Roland Garros clay, she has long said the grass courts are her favourite surface. This fortnight, she has shown why.

Barty needed all of her quality and fight to stop Kerber – who was on a 10-match winning streak on the grass – taking this match into a decider.

After the German led 5-2 in the second set, Barty kept her nerve and continued to land winners to break back, before dominating the tie-break.

“I have had ups, downs and everything in between on this journey,” said Barty, whose scallop-hemmed dress at these championships is a tribute to the one Goolagong wore when she won the title in 1971.

“There’s a lot of things which have led to this point. To play in the final at Wimbledon on Saturday will be the best thing ever.”

Pliskova bounces back to see off Sabalenka

Sabalenka struggled to get a look-in on Pliskova’s serve in the first set, only once forcing break point, in the final game when Pliskova conceded the set with a double fault.

The Belarusian had to save eight break points herself, her powerful serve her biggest weapon – reaching 120mph – as she crashed down nine aces in the opener.

But Pliskova started to impose herself on Sabalenka in the second set, dropping just two points on serve before going a break-to-love up in the fifth game.

She backed that up with a love hold before the rest of the set stayed on serve, Pliskova taking the tie into a decider with a forehand into the corner.

The Czech then raced into a 2-0 lead in the third set with an immediate break, and while Sabalenka refused to go down without a fight, recording two love holds, her opponent refused to give her an opening.

Pliskova wrapped up the win with an ace, her 13th of the match – compared to Sabalenka’s 18 – to set up another appearance on Centre Court on Saturday.

Pliskova will return to a top-10 ranking on Monday, the Wimbledon fortnight being her first weeks out of the top 10 since August 2016.

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