If you are a casual tennis fan, you could be forgiven for being surprised when you look at the line-up for the French Open women’s final – Ashleigh Barty vs Marketa Vondrousova. After all, both Barty and Vondrousova will play in their first singles major final ever on Saturday (June 8).
However, if you look back at the tour-level results in 2019, they are two of the most consistent and fast-improving players. This final is also a testament to the WTA’s depth and variety. Barty vs Vondrousova is a final that maybe nobody could predict two weeks ago, but it’s a final that promises to be very entertaining.
Barty, 23-year-old from Australia, is ranked eighth in the world. Barty found success at a very young age and thrived as a doubles player. By the age of 16, she had reached the finals of the Australian Open women’s doubles. In the same year, she also made the doubles final of Wimbledon and US Open with her partner Casey Dellacqua.
At the end of the 2014 season, Barty took a hiatus from tennis for two years and switched to cricket. She later revealed that she took some time off because the pressure and the constant travel in tennis were a lot to handle for her as a teenager.
The Australian made her return to tennis in 2016 and has only grown by leaps and bounds. Earlier this year, she reached the final in Brisbane and won the biggest title of her career in Miami. Her opponent Vondrousova is another young phenom who has taken the tennis world by storm. Vondrousova (19) a left-hander from Czech Republic is the first teenager to reach a final at Roland Garros since Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic in 2007.
The Czech player has reached the quarter-finals or better of every tournament that she played in 2019 since the Australian Open. She has a win-loss record of 15-2 on clay this year and has finished runner-up in Budapest and Istanbul.
Vondrousova is currently ranked 38 in the world. She is yet to drop a set at Roland Garros and is aiming to become the first teenager to claim the Suzanne Lenglen trophy since Iva Majoli in 1997. Barty moves up to world number 3 by reaching the French Open final and can be No 2 in the world if she wins the title. Vondrousova is assured of breaking into the top-20 on Monday (June 10) with her finals run.
Both the finalists have played each other twice before and Barty has won both their previous meetings in straight sets, but the battles have been closer than the scorelines suggest. On the grass courts of Birmingham in 2017, Barty came through 7-5, 7-6(1), while on Cincinnati’s hard courts last year she won 6-3, 7-5. Saturday (June 8) will be their first meeting on clay.
In her first three rounds, Vondrousova defeated Wang Yafan, Anastasia Potapova and 28th seed Carla Suarez Navarro in straight sets. In the fourth round, she lost only two games in her match against 12th seed Anastasija Sevastova. In the quarter-finals, she defeated Petra Martic for the first time after five previous losses and then overcame 26th-seeded Johanna Konta to reach the final.
For Barty, the road to final has been relatively more topsy-turvy. She started her French Open by beating American Jessica Pegula in the first round, followed by straight-sets wins over Danielle Collins and veteran Andrea Petkovic. She then won in three sets against Sofia Kenin, who had upset Serena Williams. Barty played one of her best matches of the tournament to get past Madison Keys and reach the semis. She then overcame Amanda Anisimova in three extremely tight, swinging sets on Friday to make the final.
The Barty-Vondousoa clash has the potential to be one of the craftiest matches in a long time thanks to the two finalists’ styles of play. Both players rely on plenty of spin and slice, and do not play a conventional power game from the baseline.
Vondrousova’s strongest weapon is her dropshot and has impeccable technique and timing while executing it. Barty is the better server among the two and has hit 50 aces on her way to the final. It will be intriguing to see the two players try to outfox each other in the quest for their first major trophy.
While this will be a first Grand Slam final for both of them, Barty has had some experience of playing on the big stage. She won the 2018 women’s doubles title at the US Open while Vondrousova has yet to play a match on Court Philippe-Chatrier. For both players, Saturday will be the biggest match in their careers, and more than skill it could come down to holds their nerves better.