Ash Barty is again looking every inch the world No 1 after repelling a familiar battling effort from Angelique Kerber to power into the final of the Western & Southern Open.
The Australian overcame a blip in concentration early in the second set to recover her magisterial form in another early start on Saturday and then roar to a 6-2 7-5 victory in just under 75 minutes in Cincinnati.
In a reprise of their Wimbledon semi-final last month when Barty also came out on top in straight sets, the Queenslander soon seemed to have a measure of control as she raced through the first set in 27 minute.
Barty had reeled off six straight games before Germany’s three-time grand slam winner showed her steel and finally took advantage of a dip in Barty’s form and concentration levels to break her twice.
The Wimbledon champion regained her equilibrium and struck for her crucial fifth break of Kerber’s delivery in the 12th game of the second set to make it into her sixth final of the season, without having dropped a set so far in the tournament.
“It’s never, ever a walk in the park against Angie, she’s an exceptional competitor and I think early on in that second set she lifted and went into another gear and it took me a few games to go with her,” said Barty, who took her head-to-head record against Kerber to 4-2 in her favour.
“Angie won the big points early on in the second set so I was glad I was able to find a way through there in the end,” Barty added. “I had to find the balance between being aggressive and not being too passive and not letting Angie dictate.”
“In the two games I got broken, she just saw too many second serves and was able to be assertive. So I’m really happy to get through, and to be playing for a title here in Cincinnati is awesome.”
The Aussie will now compete for a fifth title in what she calls her “grand adventure” of a season against either her opponent in the Wimbledon final, Karolina Pliskova, or Swiss surprise package Jil Teichmann, who has beaten Naomi Osaka and Olympic champion Belinda Bencic already this week.
In the men’s event, the top four seeds have all progressed to the semi-finals with top seed Daniil Medvedev facing his Russian compatriot Andrey Rublev first on Centre Court. The Olympic champion, Alexander Zverev, and Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas meet in the other semi-final.