In some ways, Ash Barty's rise to No. 1 in the women's rankings can be traced back to a loss to Angelique Kerber three years ago. (More Tennis News)
Playing her first final in her native Australia, Barty was beaten in straight sets by Kerber in the 2018 Sydney International — and came away with a new understanding of what it takes to get to the top.
”I remember coming off the court and feeling like my level was close, but it wasn't good enough,” Barty said.
”That was almost a bit of a reset knowing I'm not far off, but I'm not there yet.”
Now Barty is not far off her first Wimbledon title. But not there yet, as Kerber once again stands in her way in Thursday's semifinals.
”I think the challenge of playing her in a semifinal of Wimbledon is an incredible opportunity, one that I'm really excited for,” said Barty, who won her only Grand Slam title at the 2019 French Open.
”It's not scary or overwhelming, it's just exciting.”
Kerber is the only former women's champion remaining in the tournament. The other two semifinalists, No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka and Karolina Pliskova, are into the last four for the first time at the All England Club.
The 33-year-old Kerber is only seeded 25th at Wimbledon but seems to have rediscovered her best grass-court form after winning a warmup tournament in Bad Homburg, Germany.
She has a 2-2 career record against Barty, but their last meeting came in 2018 and they have never played on grass. Kerber thinks the fact that her name is already on the Wimbledon trophy could give her an advantage.
“Of course, it's a good feeling already to have the trophy at home and to (have) won it here,” she said.
“Now I'm back. I'm coming after a really tough time. I was not playing good the last few months. Now, winning last week a tournament at home, now playing well here again, that means a lot to me.”
Barty, for her part, has never even had a good look at the Venus Rosewater Dish, as the women's trophy is called.
“I think it's downstairs in like a case before the court entrance,” Barty said after her quarterfinal win over fellow Australian Ajla Tomljanovic.
“I can't say that I've gone up and kind of peered in. Maybe one day I'll get an opportunity to look at it.”
Denis Shapovalov called it “the craziest game, I think, of my life.”
It involved four break points and a number of crucial HawkEye challenges, and it helped send Shapovalov into the Wimbledon semifinals for the first time.
It came at 4-4 in the fifth set of a tense, back-and-forth quarterfinal against No. 25-seeded Karen Khachanov on No. 1 Court.
With Khachanov serving and up 30-15, Shapovalov hit a cross-court backhand winner that was called wide. He challenged that call and a replay showed the ball clipped the line — making it 30-all instead of 40-15.
Khachanov went on to save two break points, then gave up a third when his forehand was called out by the chair umpire — a decision that proved correct by a tiny margin after another replay.
On the next point, the chair umpire again stepped in to call a forehand from Shapovalov long — a decision that was also upheld after a challenge.
Khachanov then hit a forehand long on consecutive points to give away the break.
“It was definitely super, super tough," Shapovalov said.
"And then having the craziest game, I think, of my life over there. Being able to win that was massive.”
The No. 10-seeded Canadian won 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4. Next up is top-ranked Novak Djokovic, a five-time champion at the All England Club. Having already beaten home favorite Andy Murray on Centre Court, Shapovalov thinks he's ready for that challenge, too.
“When you're at the semifinals of a tournament, there's not really underdogs, overdogs, whatever you want to call it,” he said.
“Obviously he's got experience, this and that. Like I said, the score is 0-0 and you play the match. It's tennis.”