By Ros Satar, at Roland Garros
- Ashleigh Barty  def. Marketa Vondrousova 6-1 6-3
- Talks about how pivotal her time was away from the sport
PARIS, FRANCE – Ashleigh Barty cruised to a maiden Slam in Paris, admitting that if she had not taken a break from the sport, she would not be sitting here as the champion.
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Ashleigh Barty  def. Marketa Vondrousova 6-1 6-3
While chaos as reigned (if not rained) throughout the tournament, one thing remained constant – Ashleigh Barty’s rise to join the cream of the crop was getting ever more imminent. Tested more than her opponent Marketa Vondrousova had been, Barty found herself in three setters, and came back from the brink in the semi-final which almost pitted two teens for the silverware.
But cometh the day, cometh the Barty as she brought every ounce of variety and cunning to the court. She effectively shut down Vondrousova’s ability to open up the court and play her game, and even if the lefty-Czech had been able to do more with her serve and variety, Barty had an answer for everything, without the blip we saw in the semi-final.
Barty dominated the first set, while Vondrousova, who had never played on Chatrier before today, just struggled with everything else. In the second set we saw the green shoots of recovery from the Czech who at least kept in contention with Barty after going down an early break at the start of the second set.
For the past two years the champion has come from a set and a break down to lift the trophy, but not this year as Barty kept the youngster at bay, much in the way that an older sibling keeps its kid sister at arm’s length with a strategic hand on their head as the flail around.
Vondrousova admitted that she had not been able to get into her game at all on her first outing on the main court here at Roland Garros.
She said, in her post match press conference: “Of course I’m a little bit sad now, because I lost. But it was a great two weeks. I had my family here, so it’s still amazing for me. I think she was just too good today. I think she plays amazing match. I didn’t have too many chances today. Yeah, I think she just gave me a lesson today.
“It was also windy, so it was a bit different today. I warm up there at least, and I think I was fine. I didn’t really play nervous.”
At 19 years of age, Vondrousova follows in the long lone of fine Czech players making their mark on courts world-wide. She has enormous variety and range in her repertoire at such a young age. So, what would she look back upon, these past few weeks?
“I think I’m proud of myself at everything, because I’m just 19 and I won six tough matches. It was amazing two weeks for me, and I’m just really proud of myself that I was in the final here.”
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‘Best decision’ to step away, ‘even better one coming back’
Barty would never admit to really loving the clay, and indeed last year she declared that every week on clay was a week closer to the grass, but her lead-up this year saw her reach the Madrid quarter-final before perhaps an earlier than expected departure from Rome (before the rain chaos), and a solid run here.
She said, of this season’s results: “It’s been an incredible couple of weeks, that’s for sure. I think any time I can play my brand of tennis, I know that I can match it against the best in the world.
“For the last fortnight, the stars have aligned for me. I have been able to play really good tennis when I’ve needed it. This is just incredible. I never dreamt that I’d be sitting here with this trophy here at the French Open. I mean, obviously we have dreams and goals as children, but this is incredible.
“I think probably that match in Rome was the only match of the whole year that I felt like I walked off the court and I was a little bit disappointed with how I played and how I was out there.
“Then today I just kept saying to myself, I may never get this opportunity ever again, so try and grab it with both hands. I felt like for me it was the perfect tennis match, considering the situation, the conditions, and kind of all of the above. It was amazing.”
Only 23, Barty seemed mature beyond her years as she reflected on the last few years in particular. Three years and two days ago, Barty re-appeared on the WTA Tour rankings having stepped away from the sport and enjoying a brief but successful career as a cricketer for Brisbane Heat in Women’s Big Bash cricket. She was ranked No. 623. She will now rise to No. 2 in the world – the first Australian to reach that high since Evonne Goolagong Cawley (6 December 1976).
She continued: “I don’t even know if I’d be sitting here talking to you if I was playing tennis if I didn’t step away. It’s obviously a part of my life that I needed to deal with, and I feel like it was the best decision that I made at the time, and it was an even better one coming back.”
Through a great-grandmother on her paternal side, she is descended from the Ngarigo people of the border between Victoria and New South Wales and identifies as an Indigenous Australian.
She added: “Evonne sent me a text a couple days ago and said this was her first Grand Slam. I spotted her name on the trophy. I’ll give her a call a little bit later on. It’s amazing she’s created this path for indigenous tennis in Australia and I think now it’s becoming more nationwide. There are more opportunities for kids to start playing tennis, both male and female.
“Hopefully we can continue to create those opportunities and, you know, let kids know that this is an option for a career and they can enjoy it. And even if it’s not, it’s a sport they can play for life.”
Roland Garros will conclude with the Men’s Singles Final at 3pm (2pm BST).
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