Kerber back in top 20 after reaching Sydney final

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Former world number one Angelique Kerber maintained her perfect record in 2018 as she saw off Camila Giorgi in straight sets to reach the Sydney International final.

Having enjoyed a breakthrough 2016 with victories at the Australian Open and US Open, Kerber endured a hugely disappointing 2017.

She went out in the first round at the French Open and at Flushing Meadows and did not go beyond the fourth round of any slam, finishing the year with a 29-24 record.

But the German appears reinvigorated in the early stages of 2018 and made it eight wins from eight in the new calendar year by dispensing of Giorgi.

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 last year.

However, Kerber - who will move back into the top 20 as a result of her return to form - is unlikely to have the home crowd on her side, as she will face Australian Ashleigh Barty in the final.

Barty overcame compatriot Daria Gavrilova in three sets, coming back from a set down to win 3-6 6-4 6-2.

She becomes the first Australian to reach the final since 2005, when countrywomen Alicia Molik and Samantha Stosur contested the showpiece. 

"I'd love to go one further and hold the trophy up here," Barty said. "I love playing in Australia, I love playing at home. It's nice to be able to get a lot of matches here and be rewarded with the final."

Meanwhile at the Hobart International, Elise Mertens prevailed in a battle of two of the last three winners of the event with Heather Watson.

Defending champion Mertens suffered a second-set blip against Watson, winner in 2015, but recovered to earn a 6-4 1-6 6-2 success.

Standing between the Belgian and the retention of the title is Mihaela Buzarnescu, the Romanian reaching the final with a 6-2 6-2 defeat of Lesia Tsurenko.