French Open 2019: Ashleigh Barty’s robustness meets teen Marketa Vondrousova’s big-match mettle in women’s singles final
Barty may be the favourite to win, and the more experienced of the two players on court, but experience has mattered for naught for the gutsy Vondrousova, who took out four seeds -
Both semi-finals at the French Open, played through a hurriedly - and poorly scheduled end to the women’s tournament, saw some great battles played out on court. With players pushed to the secondary courts, even though the men’s semi-finals were only to be played later that day, crowds were not significant.
And still, both semi-finalists played to the gallery, pulling out exquisite shots one after another as each of the four female semi-finalists gunned to make their first ever singles Grand Slam final.
Marketa Vondrousova has won the most matches of any player on clay this year, with thirteen victories to her name, in addition to which she also took two straight-sets win on clay at the Fed Cup. The 19-year-old has been nothing short of extraordinary this year, coming through to make the finals in Istanbul, and routinely defeating higher-ranked opponents without so much as breaking a sweat.
It is that even disposition that will stand Vondrousova in good stead, particularly coming up against quite a tough opponent. Up against the British No. 1 today, she barely broke a sweat, playing a top-notch game as she watched Konta unravel instead.
Vondrousova has a lot of experience against highly-ranked former champions, deafeating a number of them this season alone. At the Hungarian Open, finalist Vondrousova took a convincing first set, 6-1, against tournament top seed Alison van Uytvanck before she eventually lost.
Only 19, this year Vondrousova has had not one, but two wins over World No. 3 Simona Halep; that and her semi-final performance should be an absolute indication of the fact that she has nerves of steel. Despite beginning her semi with a double fault, and then going down 3-5 only to claw back twice, Vondrousova has a collection of shots that would make even an experienced player blush.
Crucially for the teen, she knows when to use them. That is something both players have in common - and something we saw during each semi-final on Friday.
Australian Ashleigh Barty, a four-time Grand Slam finalist, albeit in the doubles, is the eighth seed at Roland Garros, and is coming off an excellent year, one that has seen here rise to a career-high ranking and win her best singles title, at the Miami Open; it was also her first Premier Mandatory title.
Anisimova, who had taken the first set against her Australian rival, took sixteen points on the trot to push Barty to the wall, and led the Australian 3-0 through the second game. We have already seen, to great effect, how Vondrousova can pull points out of seemingly nowhere, so she could well trouble her Australian rival. Barty used a variety of shots against a resurgent Anisimova to fight for her win, so the final promises to be an interesting one.
Barty is more experienced at the Grand Slam stage than Vondrousova, something that might work in her favour considering the occasion. A four-time finalist in the doubles, Barty won the title at the US Open last year with CoCo Vandeweghe, so dealing with the pressure of a Major final may be easier for her to handle.
Interestingly, neither player is specifically a clay-court player. While Barty’s style of play seems more suited to hard courts, Vondrousova is relatively new, but has done pretty well on both hard courts and clay; there may not be enough data to extrapolate just yet what her strongest suit is.
Both Barty and Vondrousova have defeated similar players this year as well.
This tournament, both finalists have displayed some excellent control of the ball, with some great slices, lobs and volleys from each. Both are also known for the ability to preempt points and construct them with some wily shots, so it will be as much a game of wits as it is of skill here.
Barty may be the favourite to win, and the more experienced of the two players on court, but experience has mattered for naught for the gutsy Vondrousova, who took out four seeds - among them multiple of the most in-form clay courters this season, en route to the finals.
Nerves, too, will not be a problem for the teen, who staved off set points on multiple occasions only to win in straight sets - a significant turnaround within each set, and twice.
Barty leads the pair’s head-to-head record at 2-0, but the two have never played each other on the dirt before. Vondrousova has also not dropped a single set en route to the final, and has clearly declared her big-game mettle. Could clay help her throw a spanner in Barty’s hopes to win her first ever Grand Slam singles title? Seeded higher than the teen, that experience and ranking may be in the Australian’s favour, but Vondrousova appears to have had a smoother time on clay this time around, particularly at the French Open, where the teen has had a tougher draw and still a stronger showing till the finals.
Whoever wins this match, the women’s singles draw at Roland Garros promised and delivered some great storylines, and revealed just how much women’s talent is waiting in the wings.
“I think everybody's going to know me now,” Vondrousova had said after her semi-final. Now, the teen stands to be the first Czech player since Ivan Lendl in 1987 to potentially win the cup - so, like Johanna Konta, she has the weight of a nation on her shoulders, while Barty has things only to prove to herself.
Barty has won both the pair’s previous outings - on grass at Birmingham in 2017, and on hard courts last year at the Cincinnati Masters. But Vondrousova stretched the Australian on each of those occasions and clay could mean a different ball game altogether.
Experience will be on Barty’s side in the women’s singles final, but if anyone can pull off the seemingly impossible, it is Vondrousova.
The top-seeded Barty won through 6-3, 6-3 to set up a clash with US teenager Coco Gauff who earlier ousted Madrid winner Aryna Sabalenka.
Sabalenka was beaten by Barty in the final in Stuttgart last month but exacted revenge at the Caja Magica, a storming 6-0, 3-6, 6-4 victory clinching the biggest title of her career.
Madrid Open: Ashleigh Barty ousts Iga Swiatek to reach quarter-finals; Denis Shapovalov beats Dusan Lajovic
Ashleigh Barty will now face three-time Madrid Open champion Petra Kvitova for a place in the semis, after Kvitova beat Veronika Kudermetova.