SYDNEY, Australia - The winning streak remains alive: Angelique Kerber is eight for eight in 2018 with her 6-2, 6-3 Sydney International semifinal victory over qualifier Camila Giorgi.
The win means that the German has reached her first final since Monterrey April last year, and second in total in Sydney - she was also runner-up to Tsvetana Pironkova in 2014.
The Italian had been in dominant form all week, winning six matches without dropping a set in qualifying and the main draw and impressing the crowds with her ability to control her power - something that has not always been consistent over the course of her career.
But she had never beaten Kerber in two previous meetings - and although the 2016 Australian Open champion had dropped two sets, to Lucie Safarova in the first round and No.2 seed Venus Williams in the second round, she has also been in stellar form in 2018.
It was Giorgi who powered to a first break point opportunity in the fourth game, keeping her cool during extended rallies and having the presence of mind to close efficiently at net. But on that point, Kerber demonstrated exactly why she posed such a problem for the World No.100's all-out aggressive style. Withstanding Giorgi's hammer blows and absorbing all her pace before injecting some of her own, the 29-year-old took her opponent by surprise with the rapidity of her transition from defence to offence.
Though the World No.100 continued to go all-out on return, sometimes to breathtaking effect, she was unable to hit her spots on crucial points. A brace of wickedly angled Kerber returns sealed the first break of serve for the German, and Giorgi was unable to take a pair of break-back points in the following game; overall, she would convert just one of nine break points. By contrast, the former World No.1 was able to break on five of her seven chances.
Having captured the double break thanks to more fine returning, Kerber's ability to move the ball around the court was on full display on her first set point, steering it from corner to corner to elicit another Giorgi error.
Undeterred, the 26-year-old somehow managed to up the pace even more at the start of the second set, rattling off the first seven points and first three games with a sequence of rapid-fire winners.
But when Kerber fended off two break points that would have put her down 0-4, the second with her signature forehand down the line, the set began to turn.
Phenomenal defence from the World No.1 in one of the best points of the match enabled her to break back for 2-3, and from there Giorgi's mistakes began to cascade under the increased pressure. Her hit-or-miss ratio had held up all week, but now it began to tip unrelentingly towards the latter: she would commit 29 unforced errors to 24 winners today.
Kerber, meanwhile, would strike 18 winners and only 11 unforced errors - and having stared down that 0-4 barrel, reeled off six games in a row, fending off yet another break point in the eighth game of the set before breaking Giorgi for the third consecutive time to seal victory on her first match point.
In the final, where Kerber will be gunning for her first title since the 2016 US Open, she will face local favorite Ashleigh Barty, against whom she has split two previous encounters. Those matches, in fact, were the first and last of Kerber's 2017 campaign: she started the year with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 defeat of Barty in the second round of Brisbane, but ended by falling to the Australian 6-3, 6-4 in the round-robin stages of the Zhuhai Elite Trophy.
Having fallen out of the Top 20 last November, today's win also confirms Kerber's return to that group - and a title tomorrow would see her rise to No.16.