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Karolina Pliskova reaches first Wimbledon final with three-set win over Aryna Sabalenka - GETTY IMAGES

Karolina Pliskova reaches first Wimbledon final with three-set win over Aryna Sabalenka – GETTY IMAGES

First the touch, then the thunder. If the artist that is fair dinkum Aussie, Ashleigh Barty, had delighted the Centre Court audience with the nuance of her game, then it was only fitting as the clouds gathered overhead that the crowd should get a suitable dose of thunder from two of the heaviest hitters on the circuit.

Their service games were weapons of considerable destruction with speeds that would not have looked out of place in the men’s game. It was an ace masterclass, 32 in all. It was eighth seed Karolina Pliskova who prevailed and if Barty is to fulfil her ‘childhood dream,’ she will have to find a way to mess and meddle with the phenomenal Pliskova serve who only had one break point against her in the entire afternoon.

There was a moment in the third game as the formidable Belarusian, Aryna Sabalenka, prepared to unleash a vicious, driving winner that a collective grunt erupted from the crowd in unison as the piledriving stroke was unleashed. It takes all sorts and all ways to win a tennis match. Purists look away now. A power game it was. But it was compelling and high quality in its brutalist way.

The pair had plenty of personal animus behind their quest for a first appearance in a Wimbledon final. They have both been garlanded with praise, have been regular contenders at the business end of the rankings, have status and pedigree, particularly Karolina Pliskova, who has passed this way before with three previous other semi-final appearances in majors to her name and a no.1 ranking four years ago, but they have yet to make the breakthrough that matters, a Grand Slam win that would bring profile and historical approbation. Aryna Sabalenka, six years the junior to her 29 year old opponent, had not even made it to the quarter-final stage here before despite her second seeding this and no.4 ranking on the WTA tour. This was a journey into the unknown. At least now, even in her misery, she knows.

It was about time that they pitched up and did the business. Certainly, neither of them is a shrinking violet in terms of their physical form but they needed to show that they had the nerve necessary to deliver when the eyes of the world are trained on you.

There were only two rallies of more than nine shots in the opening set. It was hard-core tennis, a shoot-out, first to blink loses. Strangely, it was Pliskova who wobbled first despite having played well. And at just the wrong time, over-hitting a relatively straightforward drive volley and then double-faulting to hand the set to her opponent, 7-5, in 45 minutes. It was the first time that Sabalenka had managed to get past 30 on the Pliskova serve.

Yet the Czech found herself on the back foot. She knew it was now or never. She had slipped out of the top ten for the first time in just over four years prior to the tournament (although her performance her will get her back into that elevated territory) and as the 30 year old mark nears, the opportunities would dwindle.

She seized the moment, staying true to her strengths, fittingly finishing with an ace. Barty will have taken note.

04:44 PM

More from Pliskova

It is difficult when you are not doing well to stay positive, but my teams is super positive, thanks to them I managed to stay calm and I trust in my game – I have had success in the past so it is not like I forgot how to play tennis.

04:37 PM

The winning moment

04:35 PM

Pliskova speaks

I am in the final so think it is incredible. It was an amazing match from both of us, I got a bit frustrated but she was serving unbelievably – she was in a semi-final so had to play some great tennis. I am supper happy I managed to find a way to win

It is tough to enjoy because she is playing so fast you don’t have time to think about what you want to do, winners were quick, errors too, but it was super important to stay in the games and stay focused.

04:25 PM

Sabalenka 7-5 4-6, 4-6 Pliskova*

Big Pliskova first serve, 15-0. And another, 30-0. Sabalenka forehand down the line and Pliskova can’t get the ball back in play, 30-15.

Sabalenka backhand just long, two match points. Pliskova ace. GAME. SET. MATCH

04:22 PM

Sabalenka* 7-5 4-6, 4-5 Pliskova

Aside from her poor service game at the start of the set, Sabalenka has been dominant. She holds to love again.

04:20 PM

Sabalenka 7-5 4-6, 3-5 Pliskova*

Pliskova double fault to open the game then Sabalenka puts a volley into the net. Pliskova ace, 40-15. And another to hold.

A game away now from the final.

04:16 PM

Sabalenka* 7-5 4-6, 3-4 Pliskova

The quality of this match is getting higher and higher yet the relentless pace remains.

Sabalenka races to 40-0. But Pliskova smacks a forehand return winner. Sabalenka holds when Pliskova’s forehand goes wide.

04:14 PM

Sabalenka 7-5 4-6, 2-4 Pliskova*

Pliskova puts a backhand into the net, 15-15. Frustration for Sabalenka as she nets a forehand, 30-15.

Pliskova with a forehand into the net after good defence by Sabalenka. But Pliskova holds again with a lovely wrong footing backhand. Just two games away now.

04:08 PM

Sabalenka* 7-5 4-6, 2-3 Pliskova

Another comfortable service hold for Sabalenka to keep herself in the match.

04:06 PM

Sabalenka 7-5 4-6, 1-3 Pliskova*

Sabalenka gets the opening point on Pliskova’s serve but the Czech hits back to lead 30-15. Nice one-two punch from Pliskova.

And she holds when Sabalenka puts a tame forehand into the net.

04:02 PM

Sabalenka* 7-5 4-6, 1-2 Pliskova

Sabalenka holds to love.

04:01 PM

Sabalenka 7-5 4-6, 0-2 Pliskova*

Pliskova is looking imperious on serve at the moment. Sabalenka is not getting enough balls into play and is giving away free points.

03:58 PM

Third set: Sabalenka* 7-5 4-6, 0-1 Pliskova

Sabalenka ace, 30-15. She’s then caught out by a deep Pliskova return and puts a forehand into the net, 30-30.

Sabalenka forehand into the net, break point. Sabalenka backhand into the net and Pliskova.

The Czech is in the driving seat right now.

03:52 PM

Sabalenka 7-5 4-6 Pliskova*

Majestic forehand winner on the run from Sabalenka, 0-30. Big time hitting from Pliskova, 15-30. Then a forehand winner, 30-all.

Sabalenka backhand into the net, set point Pliskova. Pliskova winner and she levels the match at a set apiece. Game on.

03:47 PM

Sabalenka* 7-5 4-5 Pliskova

Ace No 13 from Sabalenka. She then hits a bad drop shot. Ace 14, 30-15. Pliskova forehand return wide.

Sabalenka double fault, 40-30. Pliskova forehand long and Sabalenka holds.

03:45 PM

Sabalenka 7-5 3-5 Pliskova*

Pliskova blasts her way to 40-0 again. But a double fault allows Sabalenka to make it 40-30.

Sabalenka backhand into the net and roar from Pliskova. Great rally.

03:40 PM

Sabalenka* 7-5 3-4 Pliskova

Pliskova applying pressure on the Sabalenka serve again and forces her to deuce. But Sabalenka keeps her cool, finds her first serve again and finishes the game with a volley winner.

03:37 PM

Sabalenka 7-5 2-4 Pliskova*

Outstanding serving from Pliskova as she hits three aces in a row, 40-0. Sabalenka forehand return error and Pliskova consolidates the break.

03:35 PM

Sabalenka* 7-5 2-3 Pliskova

Wow. Pliskova backhand winner, 0-30. Sabalenka error, 0-40. Three break points. And she finally does it and shakes her first in the direction of her support box.

03:32 PM

Sabalenka 7-5 2-2 Pliskova*

Great rally between the two women and it ends with a Pliskova volley winner, 30-0. Pliskova ace, 40-0. She then hits a forehand long, 40-15.

Pliskova holds after great hustle and finishing with a backhand volley winner.

03:29 PM

Sabalenka* 7-5 2-1 Pliskova

This match is flying by and Sabalenka blasts her away through another service game.

03:26 PM

Sabalenka 7-5 1-1 Pliskova*

After the disappointment of her last service game, normal service resumes for Pliskova as she races to 40-0.

She then mis-hits a forehand and loses the point. But Sabalenka then shanks a forehand return to drop the game.

03:23 PM

Second set: Sabalenka* 7-5 1-0 Pliskova

Ideal start to the set for Sabalenka as she holds with a backhand winner. She’s playing very well at the moment.

03:18 PM

Sabalenka 7-5 Pliskova*

Pliskova backhand flies long. She then hits a drive forehand well long, 15-30. She responds with an ace.

Lovely feel and touch from Sabalenka as he finishes the point with a drop shot, set point. Pliskova double fault.

Sabalenka breaks and wins the set. Where did that come from?!

03:13 PM

Sabalenka* 6-5 Pliskova

Back to back forehand errors by Sabalenka. Three break points for Pliskova as she forces Sabalenka into another forehand error.

Ace No 7 saves the first break point. Pliskova then nets a forehand return on the second. And on the third, Pliskova’s backhand return flies wide. Gutsy serving by the second seed.

Wild Sabalenka backhand brings up another break point for Pliskova. Ace No 8 for Sabalenka.

Ace No 9 and another big first serve allows Sabalenka to hold.

03:08 PM

Sabalenka 5-5 Pliskova*

Second longest rally of the match and it ends with Sabalenka netting a forehand volley after seemingly being in control, 30-0.

Pliskova holds to love. She been breezing through her service games today.

03:04 PM

Sabalenka* 5-4 Pliskova

Sabalenka double fault on the opening point. Pliskova then mis-hits a backhand after the ball flies off the baseline.

Sabalenka ace, 30-15. Then an emphatic forehand. And another ace.

This looks like heading to a tiebreak.

03:02 PM

Sabalenka 4-4 Pliskova*

Pliskova has had a comfortable start on serve and she holds again to 15.

02:59 PM

Sabalenka* 4-3 Pliskova

Boooom. Big forehand return down the line from Pliskova, 30-15. She then follows that with another forehand winner, 30-all.

Sabalenka smacks a mid court backhand into the net. Break point. She just hits even harder and draws the error from Pliskova.

Sabalenka backhand into the net, second break point. She responds with an ace. And holds again.

02:54 PM

Sabalenka 3-3 Pliskova*

A slip for Sabalenka as she tries to return Pliskova’s serve, 40-15. Pliskova forehand into the net, 40-30. Sabalenka forehand into the net and Pliskova holds.

Very much go big or nothing so far.

Sabalenka - REUTERSSabalenka - REUTERS

Sabalenka – REUTERS

02:49 PM

Sabalenka* 3-2 Pliskova

Sabalenka forehand long, 15-30. Chance for Pliskova but she puts a forehand long. Then Sabalenka nets a backhand. Break point Pliskova.

117mph first serve from Sabalenka at a key time wins the point. Deuce. Second break point for Pliskova after Sabalenka nets a forehand. Saved again by Sabalenka.

Sabalenka backhand winner and she holds with a volley winner.

02:43 PM

Sabalenka 2-2 Pliskova*

Nobody has served more aces than Pliskova and she hits another to reach 30-0. She then double faults on the next point.

Pliskova puts a tame backhand drop shot into the net, 40-30. But responds with another ace to hold.

02:39 PM

Sabalenka* 2-1 Pliskova

Sabalenka forehand into the net, 0-30. Huge forehand winner by Sabalenka to respond. Then back-to-back forehand errors by Pliskova, 40-30.

And a third eror allows Sabalenka to hold.

02:36 PM

Sabalenka 1-1 Pliskova*

Equally impressive service game for Pliskova as she holds to 15 when Sabalenka puts a backhand long.

The rallies are going to be very short today.

02:33 PM

First set: Aryna Sabalenka* 1-0 Karolina Pliskova (*denotes server)

Perfect start for Sabalenka as she serves an ace on the opening point and ends the game with an ace and love hold.

02:32 PM

Players warming up

Sabalenka to serve first…

02:26 PM

Here they come…

Sabalenka leads the two players out onto Centre Court. A first Wimbledon semi-final for both. Two big hitters.

Should be a cracking match.

02:21 PM

First finalist

When Aryna Sabalenka and Karolina Pliskova step onto court they will know the winner will play Ashleigh Barty in the final on Saturday.

Read more here.

02:06 PM

Good afternoon!

Hello and welcome to coverage of the second women’s semi-final at Wimbledon between Karolina Pliskova vs Aryna Sabalenka.

It has been a tournament of first for Sabalenka. She’s reached her first Grand Slam semi-final and is the least experienced of the four semi-finalists. But the Belarusian has the power and game to blow anyone she plays off the court.

“After every Slam I was so disappointed [with] myself that I [couldn’t] handle this pressure,” Sabalenka said. “I actually thought that I will never make it to the second week. We worked a lot with my psychologist and with my coach.

“Really happy that here in Wimbledon I’m on the second week, I’m still in the tournament, and I still have this opportunity to win a Slam. I will do everything I can to reach my goal.”

Meanwhile, Pliskova is still waiting to break her major duck having reached her fourth Grand Slam semi. Today will be her first match on Centre Court and she reckons the schedule has been unkind to her.

“I don’t want to complain about my courts because so far I won on all of them,” she said. “I think the schedule was not right, to be honest. I think I said that before. Doesn’t matter now I guess. If I’m in a semi-final, now they can put me on Court 12, I guess.

“I always like to have, because also I’m a player because I need to feel some things, not just have the possibility to play on these big courts.

“Maybe some players, they play there four times, five times, I think that’s a big advantage, especially here. You can get a warm-up, feel the court.

“Doesn’t matter. I played on Court One. I think I did pretty well. Also in this big (press conference) room, so I think things are getting much better.”