Thursday, July 8, 2021

Barty, Pliskova gain final after years of Wimbledon woes

Ashleigh Barty defeated 2018 champion Angelique Kerber 6-3, 7-6 (3) today
at Wimbledon. 2019 photo by Harjanto Sumali
Karolina Pliskova faced only one break point in her 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 victory over
Aryna Sabalenka. 2015 photo by Mal Taam 
   For all their success in other Grand Slam tournaments, neither Ashleigh Barty nor Karolina Pliskova had advanced past the fourth round at Wimbledon before this week.
   So much for that gap in their résumés, as the current and former world No. 1s today advanced to Saturday's final (6 a.m. PDT on ESPN).
   The top-ranked Barty outplayed No. 25 seed Angelique Kerber, the champion at Wimbledon in 2018 and Stanford in 2015, 6-3, 7-6 (3) to end the German's winning streak at 10 matches. 
   The eighth-seeded Pliskova, who climbed to No. 1 in 2017, topped second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 for her first victory in three meetings.
   Both Pliskova, a 29-year-old Czech, and Sabalenka, 23, of Belarus have reached the final of San Francisco Bay Area tournaments. Kerber outlasted Pliskova at Stanford, and Zheng Saisai upset Sabalenka in San Jose in 2019.
   Barty, 25, became the first Australian woman to reach the Wimbledon singles final since Evonne Goolagong won the 1980 title. Barty wore a dress with a scalloped hem like the one Goolagong wore while earning her first Wimbledon title 50 years ago.
   Both Barty, who still hasn't advanced past the fourth round of the U.S. Open, and Pliskova, who hadn't gone past the round of 16 in a major since the 2019 Australian Open, will play in their second Grand Slam final. Barty routed Marketa Vondrousova, a 19-year-old Czech, in the 2019 French Open. Pliskova again lost to Kerber 6-4 in the third set in the 2016 U.S. Open.
   Barty is 5-2 with a three-match winning streak against Pliskova, but they are 1-1 on grass. Their last grass-court meeting game five years ago in the Nottingham quarterfinals, with Pliskova prevailing 7-6 (2), 7-6 (7).
   Second-ranked Naomi Osaka (personal time) and third-ranked Simona Halep (calf injury), the reigning Wimbledon champion, withdrew from this year's tournament. Osaka has never advanced past the third round at the All England Club.
   In today's first semifinal, Barty trailed 0-3 (one service break) and 3-5 in the second set but then reeled off 11 consecutive points. Only 5-foot-5 (1.65 meters), she belted eight aces in the match to none for Kerber, a 33-year-old left-hander, and won 88 percent of the points on her first serve (36 of 42).
   The 13th-ranked Pliskova double-faulted facing set point in the first set, the only break point against her in the match. She broke serve in the opening game of the third set and held on for the victory. The 6-foot (1.83-meter) Sabalenka blasted 18 aces, and the 6-foot-1 (1.85-meter) Pliskova had 14.
   In the men's doubles semifinals, No. 1 seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic of Croatia defeated No. 6 seeds Rajeev Ram, a 37-year-old volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley from Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain 7-6 (6), 6-3, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (5).
   Mektic and Pavic, who improved to 4-0 against Ram and Salisbury this year, are set to meet No. 4 seeds Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina on Saturday.
   Granollers, the singles runner-up in the 2018 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger, and Zeballos beat unseeded Simone Bolelli of Italy and Maximo Gonzalez of Argentina 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (3).
   Granollers, 35, is 0-3 in Grand Slam men's doubles finals. This is the first time he has advanced past the doubles quarterfinals at Wimbledon.
   In the second-round junior matches:
   —Unseeded Linda Klimovicova of the Czech Republic surprised No. 7 seed Alexandra Yepifanova, an incoming freshman at Stanford from Lake Worth, Fla., 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
   —Victor Lilov of Raleigh, N.C., and Peter Benjamin Privara of Slovakia ousted No. 6 seeds Bruno Kuzuhara of Coconut Creek, Fla., and Ethan Quinn of Fresno, Calif., 7-6 (4), 6-2.

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