Ashleigh Barty continued her winning run on red clay by reaching the final of the Madrid Open.
The world number one has not lost on the surface since Rome in 2019, winning the French Open title that year and the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart last month.
She has won 17 of her last 18 matches, with the only defeat coming on green clay in Charleston against Paula Badosa. But the Spaniard was second best on home soil on Thursday, with Barty triumphing 6-4 6-3.
Barty did not play a match for nearly a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, and she said of her brilliant form: “I think a lot of the confidence I’ve gained this year was from the work that I’d done with my team prior to even playing my first match.”
Of her prowess on red clay, the Australian added: “I’ve learnt a lot more about it, without a doubt. I promise you, I’m still counting down to the grass-court season. It’s one of my favourite times of the year.
“I think the memories and the learnings now that we’re getting from the red clay has been really cool, to be able to challenge myself in different ways.”
Badosa was the first Spanish woman to reach the semi-finals in Madrid, and she will break into the top 50 for the first time on Monday.
The 23-year-old said: “It’s been an amazing week. Very positive one. Today was a tough match.
“I think she played a very good level. She’s very talented. She’s an amazing player. I think she can’t lose a match recently. Today I saw why.”
Barty will meet powerful Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka in the final.
Sabalenka ended the surprise run of Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova with a commanding 6-2 6-3 win in the second semi-final on Thursday evening.