By Liz Clarke
PARIS — With a display of delightfully varied tennis strokes and unflappable nerves, Australia’s Ashleigh Barty claimed her first Grand Slam title Saturday, winning the French Open, 6-1, 6-3, over 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic.
Because of the rain that bedeviled the tournament’s second week and dubious scheduling decisions by French Open officials scrambling to keep the proceedings on track, neither Barty nor Vondrousova had played a match on the 15,000-seat Court Philippe Chatrier.
The vast, unfamiliar venue seemed to throw off Vondrousova’s sense of space. Though considerably taller than the 5-foot-5 Barty, she planted herself several feet behind the baseline, which made it almost impossible to assert herself in a meaningful way.
The games went by quickly, with Barty needing just 28 minutes to claim the opening set, 6-1. The entire match was over in 70 minutes.
With the victory, Barty became the first Australian woman to win the French Open since Margaret Court in 1973. She’ll also vault from No. 8 to No. 2 in the world,
Barty’s journey to her first Grand Slam title is both unorthodox and instructive.
After rising to the top ranks of junior competition, she abandoned the sport, feeling burned out and joyless. A competitor to her core, she picked up a cricket bat and played professionally for a team in Brisbane, Australia, only to feel pulled back to tennis after nearly a three-year hiatus.
Barty was ranked a lowly 623rd upon her return in 2016 and steadily reclaimed her place.
Though relatively short for a top women’s tennis player, Barty is a powerful player with a big serve (no women served more aces at the French Open this year), impressive speed and tenacious fighting spirit.
The speed served her well against Vondrousova, whose love of the drop shot had gotten her far in the tournament. It was a less effective weapon against Barty, who read her opponent’s intent and was on the move to the net before Vondrousova even made contact with the ball.
Live updates from the match
By Ava Wallace
Final: Barty takes the trophy, 6-1, 6-3
Australia’s Ashleigh Barty rolled through her teenage opponent to win her first Grand Slam singles title, a trophy that’ll join her 2018 U.S. Open doubles title (won with American CoCo Vandeweghe) and her 2011 Wimbledon junior championship. She’s the first Aussie woman to win the title at Roland Garros since Margaret Court in 1973.
Barty was ultra-consistent on serve and overpowered the left-handed Marketa Vondrousova throughout the fairly quick match. In both players’ first Grand Slam singles’ final, Barty looked unshakable throughout, showing both poise and the shot-making prowess she’s honed over years on the doubles court. She clinched the title with an overhead slam.
Second set: Vondrousova gains a foothold, Barty leads 4-2
A big service hold for Vondrousova in the second set to slightly cut into Barty’s commanding lead at 2-1 turned into a second hold, all of a sudden the Czech teenager looks like she’s got some fight in her. Vondrousova is starting to play more freely and hit the shots she’s best at, all the while pushing Barty into the corners a little bit more.
First set: Barty serves it out, 6-1
There was no wild swing of momentum in the first set today, unlike yesterday’s match when Ash Barty gave up six straight games after taking a 5-0 lead. The Aussie closed out the first set against 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova without much trouble, in just 28 minutes. Vondrousova looked to settle in somewhat late in the first, but Barty dictated points throughout. She’s played in Grand Slam doubles finals before, and that experience seems to be serving her well today. Vondrousova is sending far too many balls into the net.
First set: Barty takes a 4-0 lead
It’s past midnight in Ash Barty’s native Queensland, Australia, but the 23-year-old has given fans back home a good reason to stay up. Barty looks more comfortable than her opponent playing on 15,000-seat Court Philippe Chatrier, where Vondrousova had never played before this final, and the Aussie needed less than 15 minutes to take the lead.
Setting the stage:
For the fourth time in as many years, Roland Garros will crown a first-time Grand Slam winner on Saturday in the women’s singles final.
Both No. 8 seed Ashleigh “Ash” Barty of Australia and unseeded Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic had never so much as made a major singles semifinal before this tournament, much less competed for a Grand Slam singles title. The winner of Saturday’s match will follow the 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza, 2017 champ Jelena Ostapenko and last year’s winner Simona Halep as players who have captured her maiden Slam championship in Paris.
The match got underway more than an hour alter than scheduled, following the completion of the men’s semifinal between Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem, which was suspended Friday and delayed Saturday by rain.
Barty, a 23-year-old who has competed for doubles championships at all four majors, took out the German Andrea Petkovic and five Americans en route to her first final.
Her last victim of the bunch from the United States was 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova, whom Barty beat, 6-7 (7-4), 6-3, 6-3, in a wild semifinal Friday morning that featured a few radical shifts of momentum. The Aussie took 12 minutes to take a 5-0 lead in the first set — winning 17 of the first 18 points — before Anisimova took six consecutive games. But it was Barty who held on, and her prize is another teenage opponent. With a victory Sunday, she would be the first Australian woman to win the French Open since 1973.
Vondrousova, a lefty with composure beyond her 19 years, beat Britain’s Johanna Konta, 7-5, 7-6 (7-2), outlasting the No. 26 seed who twice whittled away a 5-3 lead. The Czech is the first teenage finalist in Paris since Ana Ivanovic did it in 2007 at age 19. Should Vondrousova win Saturday — she hasn’t dropped a set all tournament — she’d be the first teenager to win the French Open since Iva Majoli in 1997.
Vondrousova has a small tattoo on her right elbow that reads “no rain, no flowers” in English — a motivational mantra to which both finalists can relate.
Barty has weathered her share of rainy days. She burst onto the scene in 2011 by winning the Wimbledon junior title at age 15 and was a bona fide star in doubles, reaching three Grand Slam finals in 2013. Her WTA doubles ranking peaked at No. 12 before she decided took a two-year mental break from the sport after the 2014 U.S. Open. She picked up cricket and became good enough to play professionally in Australia before she returned to the tennis court.
Vondrousova, meanwhile, is steadily building a name for herself on the international stage. After making it to the fourth round of the U.S. Open last year, the lefty made it to the quarterfinals at this year’s Miami Open, as well as at Indian Wells and the Italian Open, the latter of which is played on clay.
The pair have never met on the red stuff before, but they have played on grass and hard court. Barty won both times in straight sets.