Kerber keeps going ahead of Barty battle

Kerber keeps going ahead of Barty battle

Barty, ranked nineteenth, cruised past Barbora Strycova 6-3, 6-2, while 25th-ranked Gavrilova had direct passage to the last four when Spain's Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza withdrew after her win over Kiki Bertens with a thigh injury.

Kerber eased to a 6-2, 6-3 triumph, reaching the Sydney final for the second time in her career having lost to Tsvetana Pironkova in 2014, and her first in any tournament since April a year ago.

The other semi-final in Sydney will be an all-Australian affair between Ashleigh Barty and Daria Gavrilova.

"It's nice to make a final at home, but I think in my eyes it's flawless preparation for next week", Barty said after her win. Defending champion Mertens suffered a second-set blip against Watson, victor in 2015, but recovered to earn a 6-4 1-6 6-2 success.

"This start is not bad for 2018, for sure".

The Ipswich product responded by reeling off the first three games of the second, but each time Gavrilova fought back, Barty continued to make inroads into her serve.

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Gavrilova's frustration with her own serving became evident in the ninth game of the set when, soon after leveling at 4-4, she double-faulted twice and received a code violation for smashing her racket.

"I certainly shot myself in the foot with my serve", she said.

"Against Dash, she's a world-class returner and puts pressure on you right from the get-go". For me, it was nice to find the rhythm eventually but would definitely like to see it a little bit earlier in matches.

Her strong campaign is strong preparation for next week's Australian Open in Melbourne, where she opens against world No.69 Aryna Sabalenka.

Kerber, a former No. 1 and the 2016 Australian Open champion, won all four singles at the Hopman Cup and now all four in Sydney en route to the final.

"Everyone is going through a different stage in their career, and obviously this is a first for me". She reached the No. 1 ranking in September that year and was seeded No. 1 for last year's Australian Open, but was upset in the first round and her year-end ranking dropped to 21.

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