In one of the wackiest women’s Grand Slam semifinals in recent memory, Ash Barty advanced over Amanda Anisimova 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3 to reach the finals at the French Open, her first major final.
“It’s an amazing opportunity for myself and my team,” Barty said. “We have worked so hard to put ourselves in these positions. Now, we get to go out there and really enjoy it.
“That’s the only way to approach it is to go out and enjoy it, have fun, try and play with freedom. That’s ultimately when I play my best tennis and that’s what we are after.”
While the scoreline looks typical, the match was far from it.
With weather a serious issue on the day and the women’s tournament backed up after Wednesday’s washout, Barty and Anisimova began at 11am on a 1/8 full Suzanne Lenglen stadium amid cold, blustery and dark conditions.
With both appearing in their first Slam semi, Barty stormed out winning 17 of the first 18 points and after just 15 minutes, she had built a 5-0 lead with the 17-year-old Anisimova facing two set points serving down 15-40. Somehow, someway things turned around for the American who was the youngest to reach the French semifinals in 12 years.
As fast as Barty jumped out ahead to that early, she lost it just as quickly. Anisimova gained confidence with every backhand while Barty’s shots left her. And like that, Anisimova won six straight games to take the lead before Barty forced a breaker. The 23-year-old Australian regrouped for a 4-2 edge in the break but again the tide would shift and Anisimova took the next five points and with it the set.
Barty’s collapse continued in the second as Anisimova continued run which, carrying over from the first, gave her 17 straight points on her side to go up 3-0.
How could Barty have had two match points at 5-0 and now she’s down a set and a break?
But again, another turn as Barty took six straight games to force a decider, and she kept the momentum going up 5-2 in the decider and barely hung on winning it on her sixth match point.
So how did she blow that first set lead?
“I was 5-Love up in probably all of 15 minutes, I think, and didn’t really do a hell of a lot to get to that stage. Amanda gave me some cheapies. I felt I put the ball where I needed to, and then I went away from what was working,” Barty said of the situation.
“It was pretty tough to come to terms with. Probably never done that to myself before, never been in that situation. But I was really happy the way I was able to respond at a set and 3-Love and to really turn the match on its head, even though it wasn’t the best tennis in pretty tough conditions.
“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.”
The 51st-ranked Anisimova, who’ll vault into the top 30 now, had just hammered Simona Halep a day before, but began the match today dead cold.
“I started off pretty rough. I mean, I was kind of frozen and I couldn’t really get into my game. When I was down 5-0, I just tried to keep the ball in the court, and then I went up in that set,” Anisimova said.
“I was just trying to do the same thing I was doing, but she just stayed consistent, and it was just really tough. I kind of struggled with her game, so she just outplayed me basically.
“It was just really tough from when I finished the first set. She was playing really well. It was just really tough to win that match.”
As the drama on Lenglen was unfolding, British No. 1 Johanna Konta was locked in a battle with Czech teen Marketa Vondrousova on Court Simonne Mathieu. Konta served for both sets but failed and the 19-year-old Vondrousova survived advancing to her first Slam final with a 7-5, 7-6(2) win.
“It’s amazing,” the 38th-ranked Vondrousova said. “I never imagined this. It’s the best week of my life so far. I’m just very happy with everything. It’s an amazing thing.”
The 28-year-old Konta came in favored to win, but couldn’t deliver when it counted as she falls to 0-3 in Slam semifinals.
“There is nothing for me to be disappointed in or upset about,” said Konta who was 0-4 career at the French before this week. “I mean, I lost a tennis match, but I also won five. I can only take the good things from that.
“I think my opponent played really well. I’m proud in how I tried to find a way out there. I’m proud in how I tried to work the points, how I tried to play out there against her. It just didn’t go my way.”
She went on to describe Vondrousova’s game.
“I think she reads the game really well and she has that added variety with the way the ball comes back,” said Konta of her opponent. “I think she generally enjoys playing the game, that’s how it feels out there, she competes really well, as well, there are very few drop-offs from how she plays. She asks you a lot of questions out there, and I think that’s a real gift of hers.”
Vondrousova arrives into the final without dropping a set and as the youngest to make the French title match since 19-year-old Ana Ivanovic in 2007.
Barty, though, leads the lefty 2-0 in their head-to-head meetings.
“She’s top 10 now and she’s playing amazing tennis,” said Vondrousova of Barty. “She’s mixing it also like me, so I think it’s going to be interesting match. I’m just gonna focus and try to relax.”
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