Tennis

Ashleigh Barty reaches Birmingham Classic final with chance to supplant Naomi Osaka as world No. 1

Reuters

Ashleigh Barty will become the first Australian woman to be ranked world No. 1 in more than 40 years if she beats her doubles partner Julia Goerges in the final of the Birmingham Classic on Sunday.

The 23-year-old, fresh off her maiden Grand Slam triumph at the French Open, hasn’t dropped a set all week and an 11th straight victory will see her displace Naomi Osaka in top spot. She would be the first Australian woman to hold the top spot since Evonne Goolagong in 1976.

Barty sent down 11 aces and fired 24 winners on Saturday to dispatch world No. 51 Barbora Strycova from the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-4.

“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,” said Barty, who is seeking her sixth WTA tour title at an event where she was runner-up to Petra Kvitova in 2017.

“There 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.”

Barty will be in select company if she wins, as the only other women to follow a singles title at the French Open with a victory on a British grass court in their next event are Serena Williams, Steffi Graf (four times), Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Margaret Court.

But Goerges is also in fine form, having beaten Petra Martic 6-4, 6-3 in the other semifinal.

Barty and Goerges, who has yet to win a title on grass but reached the Wimbledon semifinals last year, have a 1-1 head-to-head record. Barty won their previous clash en route to claiming the Zhuhai crown last year.

If Barty loses the final, she will be two points short of catching Osaka — which would be the smallest margin between the top two players since the WTA rankings began.

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