There will be a first time slam winner in the women’s tournament as Marketa Vondrousova and Ashleigh Barty face off on Saturday for the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen. The pair had never made a singles slam semi final before their dream run but Barty does have success in the juniors, winning Wimbledon back in 2011.
Vondrousova never achieved junior slam success but was highly touted as a youngster, making her mark on the tour early. Injuries derailed her career for a while but the Czech has shown what she can do now fully fit. She had a strong clay season, making the final of Istanbul and the quarters of Rome. She had a notable win against Simona Halep also but suffered losses to Johanna Konta and Petra Martic in these tournaments – both wins she avenged in Paris. She came from a break down in each set to down Konta in straights 7-5 7-6, showing great resolve in the biggest match of career. She was kindly aided by 41 unforced errors from her opponent but it was a strong performance from the Czech, who stayed consistent throughout.
As the highest seed remaining and someone who has been at this stage before, albeit in doubles, Barty would have had all the pressure coming into her semi final against an even younger Amanda Anisimova. She won the first five games of the match and was a point from the sixth but somehow managed to lose the first set of her 6-7 6-3 6-3 win. She would find herself a break down in both of the next two sets but managed to pull it out, with her experience telling as the match drew on. “I’m just proud of myself the way I was able to fight and scrap and hang in there and find a way when I kind of threw away that first set,” Barty said. “I played some really good tennis. I played some pretty awful tennis. At the end of the day, I think I was able to scrap and fight and find a way to keep competing. That’s probably the best part that came out of today.”
Vondrousova will be hoping to go one better than her fellow countrywoman, the recently retired Lucie Safarova, did in 2015. While Barty is the favourite going into this match, it remains a far less scary prospect than an in-form Serena Williams was 4 years ago. Neither player had much of a resume on clay before this year but it feels like the Czech is a far more natural performer on the clay. She defends and moves well, as she will need to against the variety of the Australian. Barty is 2-0 in previous matches but the difference in Vondrousova from the 2017 Birmingham and 2018 Cincinnati clashes is vast. “I think my consistency over the last 18 months has been so much better than it had previously throughout my career,” Barty said. “Obviously I’m doing some things very well. There are still some things I’d love to do better, regardless of what surface I’m playing on. But it’s been an incredible few months to start off the year and definitely just riding that wave at the moment.”