PARIS: Unseeded Czech Marketa Vondrousova became the first teenager to reach a Grand Slam final for 10 years as she outsmarted Johanna Konta 7-5 7-6(2) at the French Open yesterday.
The 19-year-old left-hander lost the first 10 points of the match on a rainy Court Simonne Mathieu, but had more guile than her bigger-hitting opponent in testing conditions.
She will take on Australia’s Ashleigh Barty in today’s final, bidding to become the first Czech woman to win the French Open since Hana Mandlikova, also 19, won in 1981.
Eighth seed Barty prevented an all-teenager final by beating 17-year-old American Amanda Anisimova in three sets.
Caroline Wozniacki was the last teenager to reach a Grand Slam final when she lost to Kim Clijsters at the 2009 U.S. Open while Ana Ivanovic was the last to reach the Roland Garros final losing to Justine Henin in 2007.
Vondrousova has won more matches than any player on the WTA Tour since the Australian Open and has swept through to the final in Paris without conceding a set.
Things did not look good when she opened with two double-faults and lost the opening 10 points in a flash on a half-empty court, its atmosphere flat as a result of a weather-enforced move to the complex’s third showcourt.
Konta, bidding to become the first British woman to reach a Grand Slam final since 1977, will be kicking herself.
The 28-year-old, who had never won a round at Roland Garros before this year, had three set points when she led 5-3 in the opener, but on the first lashed an easy volley well over the baseline with the court at her mercy.
From that point on, Vondrousova began to use her splendid array of drop shots, lobs and superb anticipation to take charge, helped by regular errors off the Konta racquet.
She broke the Konta serve to level at 5-5 and then held with an exquisite drop shot and lob-volley combination.
Vondrousova claimed the first set with a defensive lob that landed plumb on the baseline.
The Czech trailed 5-3 in the second set – but again Konta’s game disintegrated.
Serving for the set, she lost a volleying exchange at 15-30 and then double-faulted at 30-40.
Konta bashed away a forehand winner to take the set into a tiebreak but Vondrousova showed remarkable calm to move 6-2 ahead and then clinch victory by conjuring another dropshot to leave her opponent stranded on the baseline.
Barty raced into a 4-0 lead with successive breaks as Anisimova, plagued with nerves, managed just one point.
Anisimova saved two set points in the sixth game to finally get on the board and retrieved a break for 2-5.
She broke twice again for 6-5 but faltered when she served for the set before securing the tiebreak.
Anisimova then led 3-0 in the second set, with Barty failing to win a point.
However, in a perfect capsule of the unpredictable semi-final, played out in front of a half-full Court Suzanne Lenglen, Barty claimed the next six games to level the tie.
The Australian, who once famously took a break from tennis to pursue a cricket career, even recovered from a break at 1-2 down in the decider.
She eventually held her nerve as Anisimova, bidding to become the youngest finalist in Paris since Martina Hingis in 1997, fell apart despite gamely saving five match points.