Saturday, June 8, 2019

Barty beats Vondrousova for first major singles title

Ashleigh Barty, playing at Indian Wells in March, became the first Australian
to win the French Open since Margaret Court in 1973. Photo by Harjanto Sumali 
   Greatness has long been predicted for Ashleigh Barty.
   And that was the problem.
   Unable to cope with the pressure of expectations after winning the Wimbledon girls singles title at 15 in 2011, Barty walked away from tennis in 2014 for almost two years to play professional cricket.
   Barty capped her comeback today with her first Grand Slam singles title. Seeded eighth, the 23-year-old Australian dominated unseeded Marketa Vondrousova, a Czech left-hander who will turn 20 in 20 days, 6-1, 6-3 in 70 minutes in the French Open in Paris.
   "It's unbelievable," Barty, who will rise to a career-high No. 2 on Monday, said in an on-court interview. "I'm a little bit speechless. It's incredible. I played the perfect match today. I'm so proud of myself and my team. It's just been a crazy two weeks."
   Barty became the first Australian to win the French Open since Margaret Court in 1973 and the first Aussie to capture a Grand Slam singles title since Samantha Stosur in the 2011 U.S. Open.
   Both Barty and Vondrousova were playing in their first major singles final. However, Barty has reached the doubles final in all four majors, winning last year's U.S. Open with CoCo Vandeweghe.
   Neither Barty nor Vondrousova has played in a WTA tournament in Northern California. Vondrousova, though, does have a NorCal connection. She advanced to the girls doubles final in the 2014 French Open with CiCi Bellis, who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area suburb of Atherton.
   Bellis, the WTA Newcomer of the Year in 2017, is hitting after undergoing four operations on her right wrist, arm and elbow in the past year.
   Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal is heavily favored to win his 12th French Open singles crown. Seeded second, the 33-year-old Spaniard will face fourth-seeded Dominic Thiem in the final for the second consecutive year on Sunday at 6 a.m. PDT (NBC).
   Thiem, a 25-year-old Austrian, outlasted top-seeded Novak Djokovic 6-2, 3-6, 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 in a match that had been suspended in the third set by rain Friday. Djokovic's Grand Slam title streak ended at three.
   Nadal, who had today off, leads the head-to-head series against Thiem 8-4 overall and 7-4 on clay. Nadal won 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in last year's French Open final, but Thiem won their latest meeting 6-4, 6-4 in the Barcelona semifinals on clay en route to the title in April.

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