Wimbledon, England – Center Court is back at full capacity as England gradually eases its pandemic restrictions. Fans making fun of Pimm in his expensive seats certainly got two different matches for their money on Thursday.
The first women’s semi-final, between Ashleigh Barty and Angelique Kerber, was a craft fair, full of crumbs and deceit and often long rallies. The second semifinal, between Aryna Sabalenka and Karolina Pliskova, was heavy metal: thunderous serves, big-bang returns and Sabalenka’s screams.
But the goal was the same for everyone involved, and when silence finally returned to the thing closest to the temple of tennis, the Wimbledon finalists were current world No. 1, Barty, and former No. 1, Pliskova.
Barty, who defeated Kerber 6-3, 7-6(3), will look to win her maiden Wimbledon title on Saturday. Pliskova, who defeated Sabalenka 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, will look to win her maiden Grand Slam title.
Although both Barty and Pliskova have excellent service, the finalists will contrast in styles as well.
Pliskova, 29, an angular 6-foot-1 identical twin from the Czech Republic with a relatively flat groundstroke and a blunt streak, has hired and fired multiple coaches throughout her professional career.
Barty, 25, is a 5-foot-5 Australian with a solid build and diplomatic skills, who has worked long hours with Craig Tyzer as their coach and who uses “us” and “ours” when referring to his tennis matches. Use words like . While Pliskova prefers to hit her shots quickly with a bounce, Barty relies heavily on spin. He has a whipping forehand, but his signature shot is a one-hand chip backhand that stays short on any surface but makes it particularly difficult for his opponents to dig into the grass.
Barty and Pliskova’s only previous matchup in the final had a stroke decisive: Barty won in straight sets. 2019 Miami Open, on its way to claim the No. 1 ranking at the end of the year.
“I think he has an extremely difficult game to play,” Pliskova said. “It’s going to be difficult because of his slices on the grass and his game overall.”
Pliskova observed that Barty could give an “ugly game” to her opponents, but it was certainly not the adjective that summed up her semi-final with Kerber: a fascinating duel filled with net-skimming brilliance, frequent changes in pace and world-class performances. level defense.
Barty and Kerber were bent down, knees sometimes scraping the ground, and 2018 Wimbledon champion Kerber took the upper hand in the second set when she fell in love 5-3. Barty rolled from there, winning the first six points of the tiebreaker before Kerber faltered to win three straight points. But the surge came too late to keep Barty out of her first Wimbledon singles final.
“I wasn’t sure it would ever happen, honestly,” Barty said. “I think you have to position yourself. I think Wimbledon has been an amazing place for me to learn.”
She won the girls’ title here in 2011 at the age of 15, making it clear that she has the potential to become a star. But although his all-court game seems friendly to the grass – skidding backhands, probing serves, crisp volleys – it took him 10 more years to score a serious run on the title.
In 2018, she was defeated in the third round by Daria Kasatkina. In 2019, a few weeks after winning her first major singles title At the French Open, she was Troubled in the fourth round by Alison Riske. Last year, Wimbledon was canceled due to the pandemic.
“Probably 2018, 2019, were some of the toughest weeks I’ve played,” Barty said. “I learned a lot from those two times. I think your biggest growth comes from your worst times. I think that’s why this tournament has been so important to me.”
He has effectively raced after the clock She retired in the second round French Open last month due to hip injury
“To be honest, it was going to be touch-and-go,” she said. “Everything has to be perfect for playing to give myself a chance to play pain-free and know that I can trust my body.”
Barty has sometimes seemed more talented than gritty during his career, plagued by the nerves of the big match, but he showed enough resilience against the resurgent Kerber. Barty smiled before taking the balls for a serve of the first game, and although she double faulted at the starting point, she took an early lead and maintained a high level.
“I think probably the biggest thing on these courts is you need to have adaptability,” she said. “The courts change dramatically from the start of the event to the end of the event. Learning to play and adjust to the way you are playing as the grass changes is an important part. It happens quickly. It gets tough. It’s also about keeping it simple, just getting out there and enjoying the opportunity.”
Barty stopped enjoying touring at one stage, taking an extended break in 2014, as she struggled to cope with the pressures of constant travel and expectations. He spent most of 2020 at home in Australia due to the pandemic, except for the US Open and the French Open. But he has admitted to returning to competition, even if it means months away from home due to quarantine restrictions in Australia.
Now only Pliskova is on her way to becoming Australia’s first Wimbledon women’s singles champion since her mentor Ivonne Goolagong Kawle won in 1980.
Eighth seed Pliskova stands tall. He needed to play and serve courageously to face the onslaught of second seed Sabalenka on Thursday. Sabalenka is probably the biggest hitter in the women’s game, with a relentless style similar to Serena Williams and with first and second serves that are on average faster than some of the leading men.
But Pliskova was able to break serve early in both the second and third sets and then held the lead despite Sabalenka’s movement. Pliskova’s serve is not as sharp or stadium-rattling as the Sabalenka, but it was a more effective weapon. He won a higher percentage of first-served and second-served points than his Belarusian rival. Together, they combined for the most aces recorded in a women’s match at Wimbledon – 32 (18 for Sabalenka, 14 for Pliskova).
Pliskova remains the most successful active female player to not win a Grand Slam singles title. she came closest 2016 US Open, when she upset Williams before losing to Kerber, finished No. 1 in the final.
“My second final, the second time I am playing against a player who is number one,” Pliskova said of her Saturday match with Barty.
Pliskova’s new coach Sasha Bazin this season has a great resume. He served as Williams’ hitting partner for a long time, and he coached Naomi Osaka when she won her first two Grand Slam singles titles. But she hasn’t had the same results with her recent employers, and Pliskova struggled until Wimbledon this year, dropping to 13 in the rankings. On Monday, she will likely re-enter the Top 10 as a major champion.
“When we started our partnership together, we weren’t as successful as she wanted or expected,” Bajin told me on Thursday. “You’re only measured by the success you’ve got. It doesn’t matter how good a guy I am, whether I’m funny or not, she’s not going to keep me if we don’t deliver results. Couldn’t be happier, but we have one more to go.”