Ashleigh Barty’s French Open dream is alive after a topsy turvy semi against US teenager Amanda Anisimova saw her become the first Australian finalist at Roland Garros in nine years.
Barty did it the hard way in windy conditions, fighting back from a set down and a break down in the third set to win 6-7 (4) 6-3 6-2.
The Australian will play Marketa Vondrousova, who won her semi-final match against Johanna Konta of the Czech Republic 7-5 7-6 (2).
Barty dominated the opening exchanges, winning 17 of the first 18 points and looked well on course to win the match comfortably after racing in to a 5-0 lead in the first set.
However, 17-year-old Anisimova, who beat defending champion Simona Halep in the quarter-finals, held her nerve to save two set points and get on the scoreboard.
That game visibly galvanised the youngster, who had earlier looked close to tears after Barty’s red-hot start.
She immediately broke for the first time to reduce the deficit to 5-2 and then reeled off the next six games to stun the Australian in cold and windy conditions.
Barty stopped the rot by breaking for a third time to force a tiebreak where she opened a 4-2 lead only for Anisimova to win the next five points to remarkably take out the set.
With light rain falling it looked as if Barty would have time in the locker room to regroup, but chair umpire Alison Hughes kept the players on.
With her confidence now through the roof Anisimova stormed in to a 3-0 lead with the Queenslander looking desperately to her coaching box for inspiration.
Barty looked hugely relieved when she finally got on the board and in a similar manner to the fightback staged by her opponent in the opener, she showed her spirit and determination to win six successive games and level the match.
A seven-minute game that featured four deuces on the Barty serve kicked off the deciding set but Anisimova prevailed on her opponent’s next service game to take a 2-1 lead.
In a titanic fourth game, Barty hit back on her fourth break point with a searing crosscourt forehand to wrestle back the momentum of the match.
A clearly rattled Anisimova was keen to come off as light rain fell.
But with Barty insisting the conditions were fine, Hughes agreed and she closed out the win on her sixth match point.
She remains on course to become Australia’s first French Open champion since Margaret Court 46 years ago, having never progressed past the second round at Roland Garros.
“That is the hardest thing I have ever had to do,” Barty said. “I fought my hardest and it feels amazing.
I am proud of the way I fought to win that match, the conditions were incredibly tough.
“It was cold and windy and I can’t wait to enjoy, it’s been an amazing journey I have been on and I can’t wait until tomorrow.”
Barty will now rise to third in the world rankings, the highest position occupied by an Australian women since Wendy Turnbull in 1985.
Victory over Vondrousova will see her move to second.
The Czech teen also showed admirable composure in her match, coming back from 5-3 down in both sets.
The first set was a particularly bitter pill to swallow for Konta, who had three set points at 5-3 only to lose four games in a row.
Vondrousova had never been beyond the fourth round at a slam before and her nerves were obvious in the first game with back-to-back double faults, while Konta clinched the break with a backhand winner down the line.
By the time Vondrousova won her first point, Konta had already won 10, but the British player let her opponent off the hook by placing a forehand wide of the open court and that settled the Czech down.