How Barty's maiden slam final was won

In Barty's first Roland-Garros singles decider, big-match experience in doubles only helped her cause.

Ashleigh Barty trophy photo Roland Garros 2019©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Dan Imhoff

The epitome of a modest champion, if Ashleigh Barty admits she has just played “the perfect match” in the high-pressure environs of a maiden Grand Slam final it is a performance worth noting.

The soon-to-be new world No.2, who only returned to the sport following a brief sabbatical three years ago, put in her most commanding and collected showing of the tournament to defeat unseeded Czech lefty Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 6-3 for the Roland-Garros silverware.

Utilising the slice backhand

Barty was clinical, calm and relentless in her 70 minutes on court in often blustery conditions.  

From the outset it was clear the Australian would use her offensive backhand slice – a shot so often under-utilised on clay – to brilliant effect, pulling the Czech wide, short and on the back foot.

The clay-skimming slice was both the surprise in the bag of tricks – used to reel off drop-shot winners – and an attacking ploy to set up her heavy forehand.

It was a worrying sign for Vondrousova when Barty was confidently hitting through the court on her double-handed backhand, too, to hold to love for 3-0.

Experience mattered

At 19, and playing for the first time on Court Philippe-Chatrier, Vondrousova clearly took longer to settle.

Barty had beaten Sofia Kenin on this court already and although it was her first appearance in a slam singles decider, she had played in five major doubles finals before, winning her first at last year’s US Open.

It proved an advantage, not only for the experience of playing on the biggest stages, but in her frequent and effective forays at net.

While Vondrousova never shied from her favourite ploy – the drop shot – Barty was consistently up to the task.

In control of the net

It was destined to become a sticking point for the Czech as she tried in vain to outfox the player Martina Navratilova agreed during the match was the finest at the net in the women’s game.

“Yup, not even close,” Navratilova tweeted.

Indeed, Barty’s only blip came when she had the comfort of a double break in hand, dropping serve at 4-0 in the opening set.

But it was not until Vondrousova trailed 1-4, 0-40 that the Czech conjured her first winner, a heavy forehand down the line.

Variety was the key

“She's playing too good,” Vondrousova conceded. “She's mixing things up. And she has a huge serve.

“So it's all very tough to play against. I didn't really feel good today because she didn't let me play my game, and it was really tough.”

In that first set, Barty dropped just seven points on her first serve, and two on her second serve and won 12 of 17 points on the Czech’s first serve.

Barty’s lopsided winner count – 13 to two – and her proficiency at net, where she surrendered just one point, were especially telling.

The eighth-seeded Aussie rode the advantage of an immediate break to open the second set and never flinched with the finish line in sight.

Super-solid on serve

“My serve is a massive part of my game, and I try and think my way around the court,” Barty said. “I know where opponents like to return, and if they shift their position, where they return. And I try and expose those spots as best that I can.”

In the immediate aftermath of the 23-year-old’s triumph, it was her vanquished opponent, Vondrousova, who summed it up best: “You gave me a lesson today.”

For all her tactical brilliance in Saturday’s final, much of Barty’s newfound love of clay may boil down to one factor: staying on her feet.

“I said to my team at the start of the year I was just worried about falling over,” she joked. “And I can successfully say that we got to the end of the clay-court season and I did not fall over once. So I'm pretty pumped with that.”