French Open champion Ashleigh Barty defeated Barbora Strycova in straight sets on Saturday to reach the Nature Valley Classic final in Birmingham—and if she beats Julia Goerges in the final on Sunday, she’ll become world No. 1.
Barty and Strycova played the first semifinal of the day on Ann Jones Centre Court, and it was the Aussie's serve that stole the show. Barty held all 10 of her service games, fought off all five break points she faced, and fired an 11 aces in the match. Barty broke Strycova twice, at 2-all in the first set and 4-all in the second set, for a 6-4, 6-4 victory in an hour and 24 minutes.
It was the Australian’s 11th win in a row since the start of Roland Garros.
“I felt like I had really good rhythm on my serve today,” she told WTATour.com after the match.
“I knew it was important that I could get up and try and hit my spots as much as possible and put the pressure back on Barbora to try and come up with some bigger serves on her service games, so it was really nice to get out of some tricky situations with some serves when I needed them.”
Barty has now held 26 of 27 service games in her last three matches, having only been broken by Venus Williams in the quarterfinals on Friday. Apart from that, she hasn’t lost serve since the first round.
Awaiting the world No. 2 in the final is Goerges, who beat French Open quarterfinalist Petra Martic in the second semifinal of the day, 6-4, 6-3:
Barty and Goerges know each other’s games well, having played twice last year. Goerges beat Barty in the second round at this very event, 7-6 (6), 6-3; the Australian got revenge in the semifinals of the season-ending event in Zhuhai, on hard courts, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Not to mention that they've also been playing doubles together this week.
“I have to try and do what I can do, and that is prepare and do the best that I can tomorrow and try and play a good tennis match, and if I win, it’s a bonus,” Barty added. “There are things that come with it, but those things are certainly not what I’m worried about. Every time you step on the court it’s a different opponent and it’s a different occasion, and I have to try and adapt and be as well prepared as possible for that particular person. That’s all I can control, to try and do that on my half.
“If I’m able to execute on the day, it’s a bonus.”
If Barty beats Goerges she’ll become just the second Australian woman to reach No. 1 on the WTA rankings after Evonne Goolagong, who spent two weeks at the top spot between April 26 and May 9, 1976. That was almost 20 years before Barty was born.
If Barty loses in the final she’ll remain at No. 2—just two ranking points behind current No. 1 Naomi Osaka (6,377 to 6,375).