PARIS: Ashleigh Barty ended Australia’s 46-year wait for a French Open singles title on Saturday by thrashing nervous Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova in a one-sided women’s final.
Eighth seed Barty got off to a strong start and never looked back, winning 6-1, 6-3 after only 70 minutes to claim her maiden Grand Slam title.
The 23-year-old will rise to second in the world behind only Naomi Osaka when the latest rankings are released next week, after becoming the first Australian winner at Roland Garros since Margaret Court won the last of her five trophies in 1973.
She will be best-ranked Australian woman since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1976.
Barty struck 27 winners past an opponent riddled with nerves.
The 19-year-old Vondrousova saw her bid to become the first teenage Grand Slam champion since Maria Sharapova won the 2006 US Open come to a tame end, as the world number 38 made 22 unforced errors, against a mere 10 winners.
Almost 90 minutes after the match was due to start, the players made their way onto Court Philippe Chatrier, after Dominic Thiem’s thrilling five-set win over Novak Djokovic in the men’s semi-finals forced Barty and Vondrousova to endure a nervous wait.
The scheduling had already been criticised on Friday as a sexism row erupted when the women’s semis were moved away from the showpiece Chatrier court.
In fact, this was the first match on the premier Roland Garros arena in Vondrousova’s career, although she did have a brief practice session on Saturday morning.
The tension got the better of the Czech early on, as she double faulted to gift Barty two break points, before firing long to put her opponent 2-0 ahead.
Barty, who also reached the Australian Open quarter-finals earlier this year, consolidated the break with a confident love hold, leaving Vondrousova firmly on the back foot after only seven minutes of play.
Another break followed as Vondrousova threatened to fall apart, but she settled down and got herself on the scoreboard.
Barty quickly got back on track, and wrapped up the first set after only 29 minutes with a crunching forehand winner.
Vondrousova had it all to do in the second set having managed just two winners in the opener, but she contrived to drop serve again at the first time of asking.
She finally held serve for the first time in the match, though, saving two break points in the third game.
Vondrousova had reached the final without dropping a set and had the best record on tour since the Australian Open, but she left it too late to get her game in order on this occasion.
And Barty broke once more, hammering away a simple smash on her first match point to seal her moment in the spotlight, with Vondrousova left sitting on the bench in tears.
THIEM FACES NADAL IN DECIDER
Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic’s dream of becoming just the second man in history to hold all Grand Slam titles at the same time twice was crushed by Dominic Thiem here at Roland Garros on Saturday.
Thiem downed the world number one 6-2, 3-6, 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 to set up a repeat of last year’s final against 11-time winner and defending champion Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic, who was second best to Thiem when it came to mastering the gloom, wind and damp of Paris, was bidding to join Rod Laver in the Grand Slam history books.
However, it’s 25-year-old Austrian fourth seed Thiem who goes on to face Nadal where he will be buoyed by having defeated the 17-time major winner four times on clay in his career.
He will also attempt to become just Austria’s second Grand Slam men’s champion after Thomas Muster won in Paris in 1995.
Thiem did it the hard way, squandering a 4-1 final set lead and two match points before he sealed his place in the final.The semi-final had been controversially suspended overnight Friday with Djokovic complaining about the ‘extreme wind’ in the stadium.
When play was halted, with the top seed trailing 1-3 in the third set, there was still around two hours of daylight remaining.On the resumption on Saturday, Djokovic retrieved the break in the seventh game but slipped behind again in the match when Thiem converted a fourth set point.
For his pains, the Serb picked up a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct having already been slapped with a time violation.
Djokovic broke for a 2-1 lead in the fourth set only for the Austrian to level courtesy of an outrageous net cord which flew over the stranded Serb’s head.
The top seed broke again for 3-2, held for 4-2 but the dogged Thiem would not relent and brought the set back on serve at 4-4.
However, Djokovic prevailed to send the match into a decider.
Thiem dug deep and stretched to a 4-1 lead in the decider as Djokovic’s error count at the net piled up.
Rain then forced the players off for just over an hour.
Djokovic rallied to break for 3-4 but handed the initiative right back, allowing Thiem to serve for the match.
The Austrian had two match points but choked as Djokovic went to 5-5.
There was one final twist as Djokovic’s 53rd unforced error on a wild forehand set up a third match point which the Austrian gobbled up with his 52nd winner.
Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2019