SHENZHEN • World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty has made it to her sixth final of the season, after overcoming Karolina Pliskova 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the last four of the WTA Finals in Shenzhen yesterday.
In a rematch of their Miami final in March, the Australian came back from a set down for a 13th time this season - for her 19th three-set win overall this year - to set up a title showdown against defending champion Elina Svitolina today.
The 23-year-old French Open champion, who is making her maiden appearance at the WTA Finals, saved 11 of 12 break points against Pliskova, and fired 11 aces.
She now ties with Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands at the top of the leaderboard for match wins this season, having recorded her 55th triumph in 2019.
Against Svitolina today, she will also be looking to become the first Australian since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1976 to lift the WTA Finals trophy.
"That whole match was at an incredibly high level," admitted Barty after her hard-fought victory at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre.
"(The final) is a match I have to come out here and enjoy. I've got nothing to lose and I need to try to end my regular season really well."
Looking ahead, she has lost all five matches in her head-to-head with Svitolina but that is not putting her off.
"It's an opportunity against a really tough player," she added.
Svitolina sealed her place in the final earlier yesterday as injury forced Switzerland's Belinda Bencic to retire midway through the third set of their semi-final.
The seventh-seeded Bencic conceded defeat due to a nagging hamstring problem while trailing 5-7, 6-3, 4-1, having forced Svitolina to drop a set for the first time in the tournament.
While the Ukrainian, seeded eight, responded in style to claim the second set, Bencic's back and hamstring problems eventually saw her concede defeat.
It also left Svitolina's hopes of claiming the US$4.75 million (S$6.44 million) winner's prize at the US$14 million event intact.
"You never want to finish the match and see your opponent retiring," she said.
"It's very tough I think for her, and especially at the end of the season in one of the biggest tournaments and you want to play well.
"It's very sad but, hopefully, she can recover and be strong for next year."
She added that she had been expecting "very, very tough matches" at the Finals and would be expecting more of the same today.
"It's the last tournament of the season and tomorrow is the last match of the season," she said.
"It's going to be a tough one but I'm going to leave everything on the court to try to raise the Cup again."