Early exits for all eight seeds had left World No.61 Barthel as the highest-ranked player in the semifinals and the path to the title invitingly open. The German's last tournament victory came in Paris almost 18 months ago and since then she has struggled to replicate this performance, making just one WTA quarterfinal in the intervening period.
The Turning Point
Barthel impressed during her quarterfinal win over Kaia Kanepi and she maintained this level early on against Soler-Espinosa to take a one-sided opening set. Barthel's backhand has been her signature shot this week and a precise return off that wing helped her to the first break in the second set.
She was not in front for long, as the Spaniard broke back immediately before repeating the trick at 5-4 to pinch the set. With her tail now up, Soler-Espinosa piled on the pressure, breaking for 3-1 and 4-2 leads in the decider.
However, she was unable to hold on. As the finishing line approached it was Barthel playing the bolder tennis, breaking for a 6-5 lead after finding the corner with another backhand. A few moments later she was at match point, pouncing on a short reply to book her place in the final with a simple overhead.
"It was a crazy match, a lot of ups and downs," Barthel said. "In the third set she was playing really aggressive and not missing a lot, so I was just trying to stay calm and take it point by point.
"She was up 3-1, 4-2 in the final set, so she had her chances, but I was just trying to fight and trying to be a little bit more aggressive. It worked out in the end!
"In the last couple of weeks, I've improved my game a lot, and I think mentally I also got much stronger."
Standing between Barthel and the title is Chanelle Scheepers, who was a straight set winner over Jana Cepelova in the day's first semifinal. Barthel has met Scheepers three times before, and although she trails the head-to-head record 2-1, she did win their most recent encounter, in Hobart last January.
"I'm looking forward to tomorrow, for sure," Barthel added. "It's going to be a tough match. I think she's played really well here and I've had some difficult matches, but it's the last match here so I'll just give it my all - finals are always something special and I'll try to enjoy it.
"It's 18 months since I last won a tournament, so a win would mean a lot to me and would show I'm on the right track and I'm doing the right things."