Top-ranked Ashleigh Barty overcame another slow start to claim a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory over second-ranked Karolina Pliskova in the semifinals of the 2019 WTA Finals Shenzhen. The Aussie has gone the distance in three of her four matches this week as she advances to the championship match against defending champion Elina Svitolina on Sunday.
"It's been an incredible year for myself and my team - it's the perfect way to cap it off", Barty said following her win. "Knowing you've played the best of the best during the week, now you have the opportunity to play for the title, it's really special."
Barty served 11 aces compared to Pliskova's one and hit 36 winners to record her fourth victory in six meetings over the Czech. By contrast, the world number two committed 30 unforced errors while only converting 1 of 12 break point opportunities.
Pliskova wasn't without her chances early on, watching as seven break points over Barty's first three service games came and went. Later in the game, the Czech finally converted after the Aussie netted a forehand to give the four-time titlist in 2019 a 3-2 lead.
Armed with her big serve, the world number two faced just one break point the rest of the set which came when she served for it at 5-4. That game featured ten points, Pliskova finally sealing the opening set on her second set point with a strong serve that Barty could only dump into the middle of the net.
The Czech had an opportunity to take a stranglehold on the match with four break chances in the third game of the second set, but a combination of her errors and some stellar all-around play from Barty enabled the Aussie to dig out of the hole and hold for a 2-1 advantage.
"The 1-1 game was massive", the world number one admitted after the match. Being able to dig out of that hole from 0-40 was huge. I think it was just a focus of mine to take the first opportunity I got in the second set."
Unable to take advantage of her opportunities the previous game, Pliskova was faced with 15-40 and promptly double-faulted to hand Barty a break for the first time in the match and with it a 3-1 lead.
Showcasing her supreme defensive skills, the Aussie stretched her lead to 5-2 and several slices on set point eventually set up an exchange of backhands that Pliskova lost on set point, the world number one forcing a third set.
The turning point of the third set came at 3-2 with Pliskova serving, neither player having been broken in the final stanza up to that point, Barty losing two points in three service games, the Czech just one in her first two service games.
Serving trailing 3-2, the world number two faced a break point, the Aussie retrieving a shot with a forehand from a seemingly impossible spot and then driving a shot from that same wing to break for a 4-2 edge. Showing no signs of slowing down, the lead was extended to 5-2 after a comfortable hold.
Pliskova did her part to hold her serve and force Barty to serve it out, the Aussie reaching 40-15 only to see the world number two save both match points. On her third opportunity, the world number one sealed her place in the final with a well-struck forehand that Pliskova could do nothing with.