Ashleigh Barty said before the French Open final she wanted to play the biggest match of her life with “freedom” and she certainly did that – showing no fear to claim the silverware in Paris.
Barty’s maiden grand slam title in 6-1 6-3 against Czech teen Marketa Vondrousova capped a remarkable rise in the past three years from No.623 to No.2 in the world, having started the tournament as No.8.
“I’m a little bit speechless, it’s incredible, I’ve played the perfect match today, I’m so proud of myself and my team, it has been a crazy two weeks,” Barty said on court after the match.
“Thank you guys for sticking with me. This is incredible, it’s been the most amazing journey we have been on in the last three years and I feel like this is just the start for us. Let’s go and celebrate tonight.”
The Queenslander was never headed in the Roland Garros final, racing to an early 4-0 lead in the first set and countering the drop-shot specialist Vondrousova at every turn.
Barty broke again early in the second set and maintained her advantage, despite several unforced errors at crucial times as the pressure mounted.
In doing so the 23-year-old became the first Australian woman to win the French Open since Margaret Court in 1973 and the first to win a grand slam title since Samantha Stosur’s US Open win in 2011.
Barty is now the highest ranked Australian woman since Wendy Turnbull in 1985 and she recalled the achievements of the women who came before her.
“Obviously Sam [Stosur] has done so well here in the past, and she has been so close before, so I’m incredibly proud of what they have been able to achieve and it has just been an amazing two weeks,” she said.
Barty is also the first indigenous Australian to win a title since Evonne Goolagong-Cawley’s win at Wimbledon in 1980. Goolagong-Cawley won seven singles titles, including the French Open in 1971.
It was Barty’s third win against Vondrousova, the pair previously meeting in 2017 on grass in Birmingham and in 2018 on Cincinnati’s hard courts.
“She’s only just starting her prime, she is going to be in a lot of other Grand Slam finals, it was very nice to play against her today,” Barty said of her opponent.
For her part Vondrousova acknowledged Barty’s renowned good humour.
“You are an amazing player and, you are such a nice person, so you deserve this,” she said. “Even though I didn’t get the win today, I’ve really enjoyed my time here.”
Barty pockets $3.74 million for her win almost three years to the day since returning to tennis after a break to play Big Bash cricket for the Brisbane Heat.
Nadal v Thiem in mens final
In the delayed men’s semi-final Austrian Dominic Thiem has crushed Novak Djokovic’s French Open hopes as he returned to Court Philippe Chatrier to complete a 6-2 3-6 7-5 5-7 7-5 victory and set up a repeat of last year’s final against Rafael Nadal.
Thiem, the fourth seed, was leading 3-1 in the third set on Friday when the semi-final was interrupted by rain and abandoned for the day.
On the resumption on Saturday, Djokovic got straight into his groove and broke back in the third game of the day. But he dropped serve and lost his cool in a dramatic 12th game of the set to allow Thiem to move to within a set of the final.
The world No.1 recovered to take the fourth set but slipped 4-1 down in the decider and saved a point to avoid trailing 5-1 before another hour-long rain break.
Thiem crumbled when serving for the match at 5-3, wasting two match points, but he got another opportunity when Djokovic served at 5-6 and finished the job with a sublime forehand winner.
Alcott wins quad wheelchair title
Earlier on Saturday, Australia’s Dylan Alcott won his eighth quad wheelchair title, the first ever held at the French Open.
Alcott defeated American David Wagner 6-2 4-6 6-2.