Barty seizes chance for maiden Grand Slam
Ashleigh Barty could easily have been playing a different sport this weekend, but the newly placed world number two will be glad that she stuck with tennis. After quitting tennis a few years back to take up cricket, citing immense pressure from the junior circuit, she came back with some serious determination.
She is now only a few wins away from claiming the world number one spot, after she ruthlessly saw off Markéta Vondroušová in the final of the French Open on Saturday.
Vondroušová, the unseeded Czech teenager, managed to get the better of Johanna Konta in the semis to get this far, but it proved a step too far against the Australian, who seems set to carry on rising.
While it may not have been an easy tie, the favourite leaped into an early lead in the first set before cementing victory overall with a 6-1, 6-3 finish.
Barty was seeded eighth going into the tournament, but several top seeds managed to fall around her to lesser lights in the competition, and with the likes of Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams failing to make it past round three, the stage was set for someone new to be crowned a Grand Slam winner.
In some ways, her hardest game may well have been in the last four, when Barty beat the other unseeded challenger, the 17-year-old American Amanda Anisimova, who had earlier stunned tournament favourite Simona Halep to make it this far. Barty nearly lost out in that one when she let her first-set lead slip, and clearly learnt from this to make sure that she was in a more resolute mindframe.
Barty sped into a 4-0 lead here in the French Open final, and went up to 6-1, making sure that there was no repeat of the semi, when Anisimova crept back from 5-0 down to steal the first set 7-5.
Vondroušová may have pulled off her own stunning upset to make the final after downing Konta, but she was much shakier when it came to the pressure of the final, and could only manage ten winners compared to her opponent’s 27.
The Czech talent admitted that she had been given “a lesson” in tennis, while Barty felt that she played “the perfect match” on her stroll to her maiden Grand Slam.
For Vondroušová, this is not expected to be the last time that anyone sees her progress this far, as she did not drop a single set on her march to the final. She has risen up the rankings to 16th place from 38 – two places above Konta, who moved to 18.
Words: Danielle Nixon