Paris: Ashleigh Barty ended Australia’s 46-year wait for a French Open singles title yesterday by thrashing nervous Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova in a one-sided women’s final.
Eighth seed Barty got off to a strong start and never looked back, winning 6-1, 6-3 after only 70 minutes to claim her maiden Grand Slam title.
The 23-year-old will rise to second in the world behind only Naomi Osaka when the latest rankings are released next week, after becoming the first Australian winner at Roland Garros since Margaret Court won the last of her five trophies in 1973.
She will be best-ranked Australian woman since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1976.
“It’s unbelievable, I’m a little bit speechless. I played the perfect match today. I’m so proud of myself and my team, it’s been a incredible two weeks,” said Barty.
“It’s a special place for Australians here. Sam (Stosur) has done well here before and come so close. It’s been a magical two weeks.”
Barty, who famously took a break from tennis to play professional cricket in 2015, struck 27 winners past an opponent riddled with nerves.
The 19-year-old Vondrousova saw her ambition to become the first teenage Grand Slam champion since Maria Sharapova won the 2006 US Open come to a tame end, as the world number 38 made 22 unforced errors, against a mere 10 winners.
“Congratulations to you and your team, you gave me a lesson,” Vondrousova said to Barty at the trophy presentation. “Even though I didn’t get the win today, I’m really happy with everything.”
Almost 90 minutes after the match was due to start, the players made their way onto Court Philippe Chatrier, after Dominic Thiem’s thrilling five-set win over Novak Djokovic in the men’s semi-finals forced Barty and Vondrousova to endure a nervous wait.
The scheduling had already been criticised on Friday as a sexism row erupted when the women’s semis were moved away from the showpiece Chatrier court.
In fact, this was the first match on the premier Roland Garros arena in Vondrousova’s career, although she did have a brief practice session on Saturday morning. The tension got the better of the Czech early on, as she double faulted to gift Barty two break points, before firing long to put her opponent 2-0 ahead.
Barty, who also reached the Australian Open quarter-finals earlier this year, consolidated the break with a confident love hold, leaving Vondrousova firmly on the back foot after only seven minutes of play.
Another break followed as Vondrousova threatened to fall apart, but she settled down and got herself on the scoreboard.
Barty quickly got back on track, and wrapped up the first set after only 29 minutes with a crunching forehand winner.