BIRMINGHAM, UK: French Open champion Ashleigh Barty is one win away from becoming the first Australian to be crowned women’s world number one in 43 years after reaching the final of the WTA event in Birmingham on Saturday.
Barty beat Barbora Strycova 6-4, 6-4 in the Birmingham semifinals to advance to her third final of the season and extend her winning streak to 11 consecutive matches.
The 23-year-old hit 11 aces and 24 winners and did not drop her serve once in one hour and 24 minutes on court against Strycova.
Standing in the way of Barty overtaking Japan’s Naomi Osaka at the top of the WTA rankings is a familiar foe in the shape of her doubles partner Julia Goerges, who beat Petra Martic 6-4, 6-3 in the other semifinal.
Barty would be the first female Australian world number one since Evonne Goolagong Cawley.
John Newcombe, Pat Rafter and Lleyton Hewitt are the three Australian men to have topped the tennis world since rankings were introduced in 1973.
Barty’s last defeat came on May 16 against Kristina Mladenovic at the Italian Open in Rome.
Success in Birmingham would be her third tournament win in a superb three months after victory at Roland Garros and at Miami in March.
But Barty is blocking out the thought of sitting on top of the world for now, preferring to focus on her game-plan for facing German eighth seed Goerges.
“I keep it very simple. I don’t focus on them at all. They are things I can’t control necessarily,” Barty told reporters after her victory.
“I have to try and do what I can do and that is prepare and do as best that I can tomorrow and try and play a good tennis match and if I win, it’s a bonus.
“They are all things that come with it. But those things are certainly not what I’m worried about.
“It is not going to change the way that I sleep at night, if I don’t get there or not. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
Turning down Murray ‘hardest decision ever’
Barty admitted Friday that her decision to reluctantly rebuff Andy Murray’s offer to play mixed doubles at Wimbledon was “the hardest decision” she has ever had to make.
Murray revealed on Thursday that Barty was one of the players he had approached about playing mixed at Wimbledon but she rejected the opportunity as she is already playing singles and women’s doubles with Victoria Azarenka at the All England Club next month.
“When Andy texted me asking me to play, I was a little bit shocked,” she said.
“Obviously I would have loved to have grabbed the opportunity to play with Andy, and I think it was the hardest decision I have ever had to make as to whether I’m playing an event or not.
“I took some time to think about it, and playing three events is just a little bit too much. I was very flattered but said to him, ‘I think there are some pretty good options out there for you’. I’m sure he’ll find someone.”
Barty will play Julia Goerges for the Birmingham Classic title