A final few foresaw: Barty v Vondrousova

Doughty Aussie and brilliant Czech face off for the Coupe Suzanne-Lenglen.

 - Kate Battersby

After all the pre-tournament talk of the most open women’s title fight in years, the final will be contested by two players who have never previously gone so deep in a Grand Slam tournament.

Ashleigh Barty, the Australian No.8 seed, faces the world No.38 Marketa Vondrousova, a left-hander, for the right to lift the Coupe Suzanne-Lenglen.

We look ahead to a final surely no one predicted.

Head-to-head history

Barty has won both their previous meetings in straight sets, but the battles have been closer than the scorelines suggest – and this final will be their first contest on clay. On the Birmingham grass in 2017, Barty came through 7-5, 7-6(1), while on Cincinnati’s hard courts last year she won 6-3, 7-5.

Tough semi-finals

Barty fought it out with Amanda Anisimova, who at 17 was the youngest Grand Slam semi-finalist in 12 years. Barty held two set points after just 15 minutes, before the youngster snatched the first set in a tiebreak and moved ahead 3-0 in the second. But Barty rattled off six straight games to level, and then survived a nervy decider to take it 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3. At the same time, Vondrousova’s semi-final task was to snap the dazzling run of No.26 seed Johanna Konta. The Czech came from behind in both sets to win 7-5, 7-6(2). Three weeks short of her 20th birthday, Vondrousova is the first teenager to make the final at Roland-Garros since Ana Ivanovic in 2007.

Route to the final

Barty got underway by dismissing Jessica Pegula for the loss of six games before beating world No.36 Danielle Collins 7-5, 6-1. In round three the 2014 semi-finalist Andrea Petkovic could muster just four games, but in the last 16, Serena Williams’ conqueror Sofia Kenin became the first opponent to win a set, before Barty whitewashed the decider. Last year’s semi-finalist Madison Keys lost 2 and 4, becoming the fourth of five Americans defeated by Barty this fortnight.

In the other half of the draw, unseeded Vondrousova has reached the final without dropping a single set. China’s Yafan Wang denied the Czech seven games in the first round, but Anastasia Potopova – fresh from her own opening round dismissal of No.5 seed Angelique Kerber – collected just four games. Then came the doughty No.28 seed Carla Suarez Navarro, seen off 6-4, 6-4, before Vondrousova steamrollered 11th seed Anastasija Sevastova 6-0, 6-2. In the quarters Petra Martic was a threat, having previously overwhelmed Rome champion Karolina Pliskova; but Vondrousova edged a tough battle 7-6(1), 7-5 to win her first match in five meetings with the Croat.

Who will deal better with the occasion?

On paper, Barty has the more experience to draw on through the four doubles finals she has reached at Grand Slam level, including her victory with CoCo Vandeweghe at last year’s US Open. She thrives on thinking her way out of knotty competitive problems, as she proved in her semi-final. Vondrousova has never played on Court Philippe-Chatrier, so the sheer scale of the stage or the occasion itself could derail her. But nothing yet has much disturbed her; she is often seen smiling on court. Having never been beyond the second round here, the 19-year-old might not quite comprehend the scale of the prize to be won – and lost. At the grand age of 23, Barty is the more likely to understand that time is finite and opportunity perhaps limited.

Assessing the other

“She's been very, very consistent throughout the whole year,” Barty observed of the Czech teen. “Probably she’s most comfortable on clay as opposed to any other surface. She has so much variety in her game. She can move the ball around the court, moves exceptionally well. For me it's an opportunity to try and bring it back to my style of tennis as much as possible, knowing at times it's not going to be in my control.” Vondrousova noted that she and Barty had never met on clay: “It's going to be something new,” she said. “Of course she's top 10 now and she's playing amazing tennis. She's mixing it up like me, so I think it's going to be an interesting match. I'm just going to focus and try to relax.”

Final thoughts

“It’s been an incredible journey the last two weeks, and maybe a blessing in disguise to play day after day, to keep the momentum going,” said Barty, who is projected to rise to at least world No.3 thanks to her run in Paris. “I’ve worked so hard. The only way to approach it is to enjoy it, embrace it, have fun and try to play with freedom. That’s when I play my best tennis.” Vondrousova, meanwhile, admitted: “I never imagined this. It's the best week of my life so far. I'm just very happy with everything. It's an amazing thing. I have never stepped on Chatrier, never been there, so I want to warm up there. It's going to be something new. But I like those big courts. I'm just really looking forward to it.”