Forget the Australian Open, Ashleigh Barty has eyes for only one prize after continuing her giant-killing run to surge into her second-straight Sydney International final.
Barty rallied from a set down and withstood 15 aces on Friday from big-hitting world No.9 Kiki Bertens to beat the Dutchwoman 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 7-5 in a quality two-hour, 18-minute semi-final.
After taking out 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the first round, Barty has since toppled world No.1 Simona Halep, the 12th-ranked Elise Mertens and Bertens to send an ominous warning to her Open rivals.
But refusing to shift her focus, the new golden girl of tennis craves joining her idol Evonne Goolagong and a host of other greats including Margaret Court, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova on the Sydney honour roll before worrying about the season’s first grand slam starting on Monday in Melbourne.
“You guys have been talking about the Australian Open. I’ve been trying to talk about here,” Barty said.
The 22-year-old said it would be a dream to become the first Australian winner in Sydney since Alicia Molik 14 years ago.
Molik, who was courtside for Friday’s win at Ken Rosewall Arena, went on to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals a week later.
“It would be amazing,” Barty said.
“Mol – my Fed Cup captain, so I would love to try to be the next Australian.
“We are so lucky in Australia to have such a rich history across both the male and female side.”
The Australian No.1 will play Czech fifth seed Petra Kvitova or Serbian qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich in Saturday’s final, hoping to complete the perfect Open lead-up.
“It truly has been a phenomenal week of tennis,” Barty said.
“I feel like I’ve played great the whole week. I’ve had tough opponents every single round and I’m really excited to have another shot at the title.”
The world No.15 has shown remarkable mental resolve to back up her career-best win over Halep two days ago.
“Both Elise and Kiki were amazing opponents so that I knew I had to be switched on and play my best tennis to win.
“That’s the best part of this tournament. It’s so strong; every single round could be a final.
“So I have to be ready now and then I get to come out and enjoy tomorrow.”