PRESS CONFERENCE: Ash Barty, after reaching her first Wimbledon final.


“Of course, she makes you feel a bit ugly with the game she’s playing,” Pliskova said of Barty on Thursday. It seems Pliskova was comparing her own power-centered style with Barty’s smoother and more complete all-court game. It’s true that Barty does more things well on a tennis court than just about anyone else playing today; like one of her fellow finalists on the men’s side, Matteo Berrettini, she has even mastered two backhands, a one-hander and a two-hander. But Pliskova, no matter what she thinks of herself, doesn’t play ugly tennis. The timing she has on all of her shots gives her some of the easiest power in the game.

So this final should, if everything goes well, offer an appealing stylistic matchup. Who is more likely to win it?

Counting a match at the Futures level in 2012, the Australian and the Czech have played seven times, and Barty has won five. That includes their last three meetings, one of which came a couple of months ago on clay in Stuttgart. Still, this head to head hardly qualifies as one-sided. Five of those seven matches have gone three sets, and three have been decided in third-set tiebreakers. They’ve met twice on grass—once at the WTA level, once in the Futures event I mentioned above—and each has won once.

“I never played a horrible match against her,” Pliskova said with a smile.

More crucial for her, she feels like she’ll have time to hit her shots against Barty, which wasn’t always true against her more powerful and erratic semifinal opponent, Aryna Sabalenka.

“At least I have a feeling about the game overall with her, which is important,” Pliskova said of Barty. “Definitely there’s going to be chances.”

This should be a competitive and intriguing clash, and an all-business affair.

This should be a competitive and intriguing clash, and an all-business affair.

For Barty, it seems, embracing the moment is paramount. She has always liked grass, but had never made the second week at Wimbledon before this year. She came here after being injured at Roland Garros, and dropped in a set in her first-round match. But since then, she has played this tournament with increasing assurance and aggression. You don’t often see the easygoing Aussie as fired up as she has been after a couple of her wins. Her semifinal opponent, Angelique Kerber is a former Wimbledon champion who was playing as if she might be destined to win another. But Barty took Kerber’s best and beat her in straight sets.

“I think I was really able to enjoy myself today right from the start,” Barty said after her semifinal win. “I had a lot of fun. That was a focus of mine. I wanted to go out there and enjoy playing against Angie in such an incredible moment, and regardless of the result, walk off the court knowing that I enjoyed it, I had fun, and I kind of gave it a crack and gave it my all.”

The question for Barty may be: Can she keep that sense of calm, and continue enjoying herself, even in the Wimbledon final? If she can, her game should flow from there. The question for Pliskova is: Can she continue to use her serve as a weapon and a shield, the way she did against Sabalenka? Pliskova hit 14 aces in the semis; more importantly, she held five straight times in the third set, and held off a hard-charging Sabalenka at the wire.

This should be a competitive and intriguing clash, and an all-business affair; neither player is prone to dramatics. Barty already has a major, and Pliskova doesn’t, but it may come down who thinks she should win this match more than the other. If that’s the case, I’ll take the No. 1 player in the world.

Winner: Barty