Ashleigh Barty is eager to emulate her hero Evonne Goolagong Cawley at Wimbledon

Ashleigh Barty celebrated a Wimbledon final she thought impossible after beating Angelique Kerber to become the first Australian woman to reach the singles showpiece for 41 years.

Tribute: Ashleigh Barty on her way to victory over Angelique Kerber in the semi-finals at Wimbledon. Barty is wearing a dress which is a nod to Australian great Evonne Goolagong Cawley. Picture: Steven Paston/PA Wire
Tribute: Ashleigh Barty on her way to victory over Angelique Kerber in the semi-finals at Wimbledon. Barty is wearing a dress which is a nod to Australian great Evonne Goolagong Cawley. Picture: Steven Paston/PA Wire

Barty’s 6-3 7-6 (3) victory over 2018 champion Kerber puts her through to a second grand slam final and with the chance to emulate her mentor Evonne Goolagong Cawley, who won the second of her SW19 titles in 1980.

Barty’s outfit is a tribute to the one worn by Goolagong for the first of her victories in 1971 and the 25-year-old will go into the final against Karolina Pliskova as the favourite.

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There were major question marks over Barty’s position at the top of the rankings given she did not travel at all last year once the pandemic struck.

Final chance: Karolina Pliskova defeated Aryna Sabalenka to reach the ladies final. Picture: John Walton/PA Wire

But she has calmly set about showing this year that she belongs exactly where she is and was the favourite to win a second French Open title only to pick up a hip injury and be forced to withdraw.

Barty said: “I think we had 23 or 24 days in between finishing up in Paris and my first round here. To be honest, it was going to be touch and go. Everything had to be spot on to give myself a chance to play pain free and to play knowing that I could trust my body.

“If you told me a month ago we’d be sitting in this position, I really wouldn’t have thought that we would even get close. I think it’s pretty special what we’ve been able to do the last month.”

Despite making her grand slam breakthrough on clay, Barty’s game has always appeared a perfect fit for grass and she won the junior title a decade ago aged just 15.

She demonstrated why immediately against Kerber, who has been resurgent on the big stage this tournament after winning a warm-up title on home soil in Germany.

Barty won the first three games, using her kick serve effectively and painting the lines.

Kerber improved, finding her backhand down the line, but the glimpses she did have were invariably snuffed out by a big Barty serve.

Kerber’s last victory over a top-10 player was two years ago but she began the second set much better, capitalising on a slight drop in level from her opponent and beginning to assert some authority from the baseline.

She led 3-0 and 4-1 but the advantage was slender and it was no real surprise when Barty broke back for 5-4 on a weak game from Kerber.

The German forced a tie-break but quickly found herself 6-0 down and, although she saved three match points, Barty clinched victory on her fourth opportunity.

“It was incredible,” said the top seed of her winning moment. “It was just almost a moment of relief, a moment of pure excitement. It was something that I never, never knew if I would feel. I think being able to have an opportunity to play in a final here at Wimbledon is incredible.

“That match was a great level, the best level I’ve played in quite some time. I think Angie is an incredible competitor. She brought out the best in me today.”

Barty has followed the trail blazed by Goolagong Cawley for indigenous Australians, and she added: “It’s a really special anniversary for Evonne. I couldn’t be more proud to be in a position to wear an outfit inspired by her. Now to give myself a chance to create some history almost in a way that’s a tribute to her is really exciting. I couldn’t be more rapt to have that opportunity on Saturday.”

Pliskova admitted she has surprised herself after reaching a first Wimbledon final.

The former world No 1 had no form to speak of when she arrived in SW19, having won only one match since she was double-bageled by Iga Swiatek in Rome in mid-May.

Pliskova’s slump has seen her drop out of the world’s top 10 for the first time in five years, but a three-set victory over Aryna Sabalenka means she now has a chance to claim a first grand slam title.

“I think still half, like, I can’t believe it because somehow, coming into this tournament the dream was to make the second week, of course, because I was not in the second week for a while,” she added.

“I never thought about maybe going into the final. There are so many amazing players in the draw.”

Pliskova, now ranked 13 in the world, won a high-quality, big-hitting semi-final 5-7 6-4 6-4.

“Actually I knew it was going to be super close because we were both serving big, so I knew there’s going to be many small chances,” Pliskova added. “Especially after losing the first set, I thought it was going to be super tough to win this match.

“Then to win two sets in a row with the way how she was serving today, I think she was serving incredible, all my chances she just put amazing serves in.”