SYDNEY, Australia - Ashleigh Barty continues to bring that special something to the Sydney International, booking her second straight final in front of her home crowd after ousting No.7 seed Kiki Bertens, 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-5.
Barty finished runner-up to former World No.1 Angelique Kerber to start last season - kicking off a breakthrough year that ended with a title at the Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai - and will fight for the title again after two hours and 18 minutes on Ken Rosewall Arena.
Bertens enjoyed a scintillating end to 2018 as well, reaching the semifinals of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, and had the stronger start of the two, breaking first and reversing a 1-4 deficit in the ensuing tie-break to move within one set of victory.
Undaunted, Barty - who began the week with an impressive win over World No.1 Simona Halep - remained rock solid on serve, holding throughout the next two sets as she struck 12 winners to Bertens' nine to level the match behind a lone service break in the fifth game.
The tension mounted as the pair traded service holds for the first 10 games of the decider; the Dutchwoman had Aussie a game from defeat only to see her chance slip away with a hold to love.
Barty took that momentum into the penultimate game, consolidating a 0-30 lead to break serve and find the match on her racquet.
With little drama, the young Aussie served out another love service hold to return to the championship match in Sydney, striking 28 winners to 34 unforced errors and converting three of four break point opportunities. Though Bertens finished with 41 winners, she had 42 errors of her own, and with break points at a premium, her one of five ratio couldn't seal the deal for the No.7 seed.
Up next for Barty is either two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova or Belarusian wonder Aliaksandra Sasnovich in what will be a rematch of a dramatic first round clash at the All England Club, one that saw Sasnovich stun Kvitova in three sets.
More to come...