Barthel came into this week with only six main draw WTA match wins under her belt, three of which occurred during her then career-best week - a semifinal showing in Copenhagen last year. In her quest to make her first final, she got off to a splendid start by bageling her fellow German in a 17-minute first set on Friday. However, Kerber quickly turned the tides in jumping out to a 3-0 and then a 5-2 lead in the second. Barthel rallied and forced a tie-break, in which she was down a set point at 6-5 but won three straight points for the 60 76(6) triumph.
"We live just 20 minutes away from each other, but we've just practiced together once, so I didn't really know her that well," Barthel said of Kerber. "I played a really good first set, so that gave me a lot of confidence for the second set, and I just kept fighting a lot for every point."
Barthel is the first qualifier to make a final since Aravane Rezai last August in Dallas and is seeking to become the first to win a title since Tamira Paszek at Québec City in September 2010. She has knocked off seeds in three consecutive rounds and will look to make it four when she squares off with No.1 seed Yanina Wickmayer in Saturday's final.
"I've played against so many good players, and I've played a lot of good matches here, so of course that gives you confidence that if you're playing your best, you can nearly beat anyone," said Barthel, who is projected to make her Top 50 debut if she wins the title here.
As for Wickmayer, she went up 5-0 in the first set tie-break and never let go of the momentum from there in her 76(1) 63 semifinal defeat of sixth-seeded Shahar Peer. She has yet to drop a set this week.
"Obviously I wanted to try to win the tournament, but I did my best," said Peer, who is now 2-4 all-time against Wickmayer. "It's a good start of the year for me, and hopefully I'll play better and better."
Wickmayer has played in six career finals, winning three of them - her most recent title coming at Auckland in 2010. In Wickmayer and Barthel's one previous encounter, Wickmayer was a straight set winner at an ITF Women's Circuit event in Torhout in 2010.