Paris Fortnight Down To Final Two As Barty Faces Vondrousova

Roland Garros (photo: Cedric Lecocq / FFT)

PARIS, June 8, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)

When the French Open began a fortnight ago in Paris, who could have predicted that World No. 8 and eighth-seeded Ashleigh Barty from Australia and unseeded Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, two first-time Grand Slam finalists, would arrive at Stade Roland Garros on championship Saturday competing for their maiden Grand Slam title?

Probably not many.

There were many other names than Barty and the 38th-ranked Vondrousova – World No. 1 Naomi Osaka, defending champion Simona Halep and three-time Roland Garros champion Serena Williams come to mind – whom were more likely thought to survive, stringing together six consecutive wins on the terre battue at Roland Garros. However, all of the big names fell by the wayside in earlier rounds. Yet, Vondrousova arrives without having dropped a set in her first six matches while Barty has only lost two sets.

Consider this: the 23-year-old Barty is in pursuit of her second title of the year – after winning the Miami Open on a hard court in March – and will be playing in her third final of 2019. She lost to Petra Kvitova in the Sydney final. On clay, she reached the quarterfinals in Madrid and round of 16 in Rome. So, it’s been a pretty good season on the red dirt for the Aussie.

“It’s been an incredible journey the last two weeks,” said Barty after she beat 17-year-old American Amanda Anisimova, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3, in Friday’s semifinals. “I feel like I have played some really good tennis, some consistent tennis. Although the level wasn’t there (Friday) for the whole match necessarily, it was there when I needed it.

“And, I’m just so proud of myself the way we were able to go out there and handle it today. All things considered, we’re in a pretty amazing place now.”

Meanwhile, after advancing over Johanna Konta of Great Britain to reach the final, Vondrousova improved to 15-2 on clay this season. Last year, she compiled only 14 main-draw wins across all surfaces. Also, since the Australian Open, Vondrousova, 19, has the best record on the WTA Tour at 27-5. After reaching the finals in Budapest and Istanbul, she will be playing in her third final of the season. To illustrate her consistency, Vondrousova has reached the quarterfinal round or better in every tournament she’s played in since Melbourne.

“It’s amazing. I never, like imagined, this,” said Vondrousova after beating Konta, 7-5, 7-6 (2), to move into the title match against Barty. “It’s the best week of my life so far. I’m just very happy with everything.”

And, for Vondrousova, it will be her first time playing on Court Philippe Chatrier, the biggest show court at Stade Roland Garros, while Barty played her fourth-round match against Sofia Kenin on Chatrier. “I’ve never played there. It’s going to be something new. But I like those big courts,” said Vondrousova. “It’s going to be something huge.”

Coming in, Barty and Vondrousova have some shared history. They’ve played head-to-head twice, with Barty winning both times. Their most recent meeting was at Birmingham on grass last year, won by Barty, 7-5, 7-6 (1). This will be their first meeting on clay – Barty comes in 8-2 in her last 10 clay matches while Vondrousova is 9-1 – and during her press conference on Friday, Barty called playing Vondrousova in Saturday’s final “probably the biggest challenge of all.

“She’s in a Grand Slam final. It’s incredible for both of us. She’s had an amazing record throughout the whole year, very, very consistent.

“I think, obviously, she has so much variety in her game. She’s go the ability to move the ball around the court, and moves exceptionally well.”

Vondrousova was asked about Barty and said, “She’s mixing it also like me, so I think it’s gong to be an interesting match. It’s the final, and I’m just going to focus and try to relax.”

Barty likes her chances against Vondrousova. “I think for me it’s an opportunity to go out there and try and bring it back to my style of tennis as much as possible and know at times it’s not going to be in my control what she’s able to do with the ball,” she said.

“I think it will be an exciting final for both of us, something that will be well fought. Yeah, we look forward to it.”

Chan and Dodig win mixed doubles title

Unseeded Latisha Chan of Chinese Taipei and Ivan Dodig of Croatia upset the No. 2 seeds, Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Mate Pavic of Croatia, 6-1, 7-6 (5), in 79 minutes Friday on Court Simonne Mathieu to win the French Open mixed doubles title. It is their second Roland Garros title and a repeat of the 2018 mixed doubles final.

“I’d like to thank all of you for coming out in this weather,” Chan said, as quoted by the Roland Garros website. “It wasn’t easy for us and I believe it would be even harder to watch, so thanks for staying with us.”

By winning, Chan and Dodig became the first mixed doubles pair to successfully defend their title in Paris in the Open Era. Chan also won the 2017 U.S. Open women’s doubles title with Martina Hingis, and Dodig won the 2015 men’s doubles title with Marcelo Melo.

Mladenovic rises to No. 1 in women’s doubles

Kristina Mladenovic of France, will rise to women’s doubles World No. 1 on Monday, the first time in her career. Mladenovic and her doubles partner, Timea Babos of Hungary, seeded second, are through to the French Open women’s doubles final. They will face unseeded Zheng Saisai and Duan Yingying, both from China, in Sunday’s championship match, after defeating No. 6 seeds Elise Mertens of Belgium and Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, 6-2, 6-1, in just 73 minutes during Friday’s semifinals. Zheng and Duan have won against three seeded teams to reach the final.

“I am delighted to become the WTA World No. 1 in doubles,” said Mladenovic, as quoted by the WTA website. “It is a big achievement in my career and something that we can all be proud of. I’m very fortunate to have been able to share this journey with my amazing partner and my best friend Timea Babos.”

Mladenovic and Babos have become an outstanding team and last year won titles at the Australian Open, Birmingham and the WTA Finals.

Mladenovic will become the 42nd woman to reach doubles World No. 1 since the WTA rankings were introduced in 1975 and the second from France, joining Julie Halard-Decugis, who was ranked No. 1 in 2000 for 14 weeks. She will replace Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic, who has been doubles World No. 1 for 33 weeks.

France vs. Germany for men’s doubles title

On Saturday, Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin, both from France, will face German pair Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies in the men’s doubles final. It is scheduled to be played on Court Philippe Chatrier following the women’s singles championship match and trophy ceremony. It marks the fourth time in seven years that an all-French team is in the Roland Garros men’s doubles final.

In the semifinals played Thursday, Chardy and Martin defeated the highest remaining seeds, No. 3 Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, both from Columbia, 7-5, 6-4, while Krawietz and Mies advanced to the final with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Guido Pella and Diego Schwartzman of Argentina.

Overall, Chardy and Martin are 34-13 as a team with three ATP Tour titles, and this year they’ve gone 15-3 and won two titles.

Evert, Laver to present trophies

Hall of Fame greats Chris Evert and Rod Laver will present the trophies to the women’s and men’s singles champions.

On Saturday, 40 years after she won the third of her seven Roland Garros titles, Evert from the United States will award the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen to the women’s title winner. She will be accompanied by Bernard Giudicelli, President of the French Tennis Federation (FFT). Evert won the French Open in 1974, 1975, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1985 and 1986 and was an 18-time Grand Slam singles champion.

On Sunday, Laver from Australia, who 50 years ago won his second Grand Slam at Roland Garros, will present the Coupe des Mousquetaires to the men’s champion, accompanied by Giudicelli. During his career, Laver won 11 Grand Slam singles titles, including 1962 and 1969 at Roland Garros.

By the numbers

• Ashleigh Barty is guaranteed to move up to World No. 3 by reaching Saturday’s Roland Garros final. It is the highest WTA ranking by an Australian since January 1985, when Wendy Turnbull reached that ranking. If Barty beats Marketa Vondrousova in the final, she can move to No. 2, which would be the highest ranking by an Australian since Evonne Goolagong Cawley reached No. 2 in December 1976.

• Marketa Vondrousova is the first teenager to reach the final at Roland Garros since Ana Ivanovic in 2007. In 2017, eventual champion Jelena Ostapenko turned 20 on the day of her semifinal victory.

What they’re saying

Johanna Konta of Great Britain, who was eliminated by Marketa Vondrousova in Friday’s semifinals, was asked to comment about her reaction to WTA CEO Steve Simon’s critical comments about the tournament director’s handling of the scheduling of the women’s semifinals, neither of which were put on Court Philippe Chatrier. Instead, because they had to be moved from Thursday due to Wednesday’s wash out that pushed the completion of the quarterfinals back a day, the semifinals were scheduled simultaneously on Court Suzanne Lenglen and Court Simonne Mathieu, respectively, the second and third biggest show courts. Konta said, “I’m here to play … But I think more than anything, what is tiring and what is really unfortunately in this more than anything is that women have to sit – you know, athletes, female athletes, have to sit in different positions and have to justify their scheduling or their involvement in an event or their salary or their opportunities. And I think to give time to that is even more of a sad situation than what we found ourselves in today in terms of the scheduling.

“I think – I don’t want to sit here and justify where I’m scheduled. That’s not my job. My job is to come here and entertain people, and I feel I did that. And I feel I gave people who paid tickets every opportunity to enjoy their French Open experience.

“And, if the organizers do not feel that that is something that can be promoted and celebrated, then I think it’s the organizers yo need to have a conversation with, not me, because I did my job and I did my job well.”