World No. 1 Ash Barty reached her sixth final of the season as she defeated Angelique Kerber 6-2 7-5 at the ATP and WTA Cincinnati Masters.
The top-seeded Aussie, who has led the ranking table for the past 82 weeks, needed an hour and 15 minutes to move into the title match, surpassing her semi-final showing from 2019.
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Barty will play for the trophy against the winner of the match between Swiss wildcard Jil Teichmann — who beat good friend and Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic in the quarter-finals — and Czech fifth seed Karolina Pliskova, who has gone more than a year-and-a-half without a title.
Against Kerber, Barty increased her lead in the head-to-head record between multiple Grand Slam winners to 4-2 as she duplicated a Wimbledon semi-final victory from last month.
Barty produced a dozen aces as she broke Kerber five times, recovering herself after being broken early in the second set. Her 39 match wins this year nudge her one ahead of Aryna Sabalenka on the WTA list for the most victories this season.
Barty is yet to drop a set in Cincinnati, playing some of the best tennis of her career as she primes herself for a tilt at the upcoming US Open.
Tennis writer Gaspar Riberio Lanca was in awe of what he was witnessing from the Queenslander in a faultless first set.
“Some ridiculous and unpredictably good tennis from Ash Barty to start this semi-final against Kerber. Make sure you tune in before it’s over because the Barty party is on,” he tweeted.
“Kerber didn’t play a bad first set at all, yet Barty wins 6-2 in 27 minutes.”
American sports reporter Lukas Weese said Barty was “on another level” as she advanced to the final in Cincinnati for the first time in her career, where she’ll be hunting her fifth trophy of the season.
“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,” Barty said afterwards.
“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.
“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.”