Ash Barty through to final in Sydney after beating Daria Gavrilova

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Awaiting the German in the final will be Ashleigh Barty, who overcame a slow start to win her all-Australian semi-final against Daria Gavrilova 3-6 6-4 6-2. With AP Photos.Former world No.1 Angelique Kerber has continued her strong play to start the season, advancing to the Sydney International semifinals with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Dominika Cibulkova.

The 2016 Australian Open champion is in superb form going into this year's event, having also won all four singles at the Hopman Cup, but knows she faces a big test against Barty on Saturday.

In a match that included 11 breaks of serve, Barty needed just one in the third set. "We can go out and have a really good match, go hard at each other, and still shake hands, have a hug at the end of the match, and wish each other the best", Barty said.

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Gavrilova's frustration with her serving were 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.

Kerber, who began a year ago as No 1 before finishing at No.22, continued her 2018 resurgence with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Camila Giorgi, ending the Italian qualifier's run of six wins in the tournament.

The 42nd-ranked Paire will meet rising young Australian star Alex de Minaur, who downed Spain's Feliciano Lopez in the night match, 6-4, 6-4. She becomes the first Australian to reach the final since 2005, when countrywomen Alicia Molik and Samantha Stosur contested the showpiece.

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Buzarnescu beat fifth-seeded Lesia Tsurenko 6-2, 6-2 in her second career semifinal.

Watson, a qualifier, hadn't dropped a main-draw set until running into second-seeded Mertens.

"That has always been (the case) when I have been the No.1-ranked player".

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The Italian looked incredibly focused as she drilled 33 winners to 29 unforced errors and more self-assured in controlling her second deliveries.

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