Ashleigh Barty won through to her second consecutive Sydney International final this afternoon by defeating the Netherlands' Kiki Bertens in a hard fought semi-final at Ken Rosewall Arena.
Despite playing four tough matches to qualify for the tournament decider, Barty said she's feeling fresh and ready to go for tomorrow's final.
"I feel great," the rather-relaxed looking world number 15 said post-match.
"It's obviously nicer playing tougher matches at the start of the season when you are fresh, but that's why we put in all the work to make sure we pull up well afterwards and to have that longevity throughout the whole season and not just in the early parts."
During her marathon three-setter with Bertens, which lasted almost two and a half hours, play was even and during the first set Barty broke Bertens to lead 4-2, but the Dutch world number nine immediately broke back to keep the first set en-route to its first tie-break.
It was an even and high-quality contest, with both players holding serve early with consistent, fast-paced service games. Both player's first serves were devastating: Barty’s clocked in the low 180-km range at a 65% success rate, while Bertens was serving in the mid 170s for a 61% rate during the first set.
The set entered a tiebreak and when Barty raced to 4-1 lead it seemed only a matter of time before she wrapped up the first set, but Bertens countered and racked off 6 unanswered points to win the tie-break 7-1 and the set 7-6.
During the second set the score was locked at 2-2, but Barty did manage to break Bertens for a 3-2 lead and then consolidated, holding serve for a 4-2 lead.
The match was evenly poised from there, but Barty held serve to take out the second set 6-4, evening the match to one set apiece.
The third set started in the same vein with the scores locked at 2-all. This time Barty and Bertens won their next service games, with neither willing to budge with a spot in the final on the line.
Both players’ were still registering over 60% of first serves, with Barty holding a slightly higher winning percentage. After more than two hours of play, long rallies were still the order of the day as the match endured into 4-4, deep in the third.
Bertens challenged the young Aussie by winning her service game for a 5-4 lead, but Barty - who's been in near-career-best form leading into the Australian Open - responded with an ace and four straight points to even at 5-5.
The 22-year-old then exerted her own pressure, brilliantly approaching the net and putting away a tidy volley to take the next game to a 6-5 lead. She then displayed the characteristic boldness and flair she's quickly becoming renowned for, lobbing over Bertens head for three match points at 40-15.
After a titanic struggle, Barty wasted no time taking the match on her first match point to win 6-7 6-4 6-4 and set up a grandstand final tomorrow against either Petra Kvitova or Aliaksandra Sasnovich.