World number one Ashleigh Barty reached her sixth final of the season on Saturday, beating Angelique Kerber 6-2, 7-5 at the ATP and WTA Cincinnati Masters.
The top-seeded Aussie, who has led the rankings for the past 82 weeks, needed an hour and a quarter to move into Sunday's title match, surpassing her semi-final showing from 2019 in the Ohio hardcourt tournament that is a tuneup for the US Open.
Barty will play for the trophy against Swiss wild card Jil Teichmann -- who beat Czech fifth seed Karolina Pliskova 6-2, 6-4 to reach a fourth career final but her first at the elite Masters 1000 level.
She needed 84 minutes to continue an outstanding week in which she beat Naomi Osaka in the third round and Olympic gold medallist compatriot Belinda Bencic in the quarters.
After ousting fourth-ranked Pliskova, Teichmann stands 4-0 this season against top 10 players.
"Playing center court against world number one in a final...it's perfect," the 24-year-old said as she looked toward the biggest final of her career.
Against Kerber, Barty increased her lead in the series between multiple Grand Slam winners to 4-2 as she duplicated a Wimbledon semi-final victory from last month.
Barty produced a dozen aces and broke Kerber five times. Her 39 match wins this year nudged her one ahead of Aryna Sabalenka on the WTA list.
The top seed needed to call upon some strategy to see her through to the win.
The pair twice traded breaks in the second set, with Barty finally getting the deciding fifth break in the final game.
"It was frustrating me, because I knew Angie was lifting (her game) and I needed to go with her," Barty said. "Not being able to execute the points when I had set them up the way that I wanted to was frustrating.
"I was able to get that momentum back with the break straight away, then it was a bit of a tug of war.
"I was able to build pressure on her games, but we both did a good job of getting out of some tough holes late in that second set.
"I had to accept that if I was going to miss I was going to miss in the right way. That was big at the end."
Kerber said that, finally, she was outplayed.
"She starts playing really aggressive, and I was just trying to find my rhythm," the German said.
"I tried to come back in the second set. I had my chances, but she played really well in important moments and closed the match her way.
"I'm pretty happy about my result this week, getting good matches before going to New York (for the US Open)."
Barty's 29 winners outpaced Kerber's 16.
The Aussie also had 18 unforced errors on the way to her 19th career final and a tour-best sixth of the season.
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