By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) – Ashleigh Barty has all the tools to become the first Australian woman in 46 years to win the French Open title when she faces fearless Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova on Saturday.
Barty’s compatriot Sam Stosur got to the final at Roland Garros in 2010 but failed to get her hands on the Suzanne Lenglen Cup which is within reach of the eighth seed, who has a unique variety of shots, tactical nous and a cool attitude.
However, left-handed world number 38 Vondrousova has yet to drop a set in the tournament after bulldozing her way through the draw to be on the cusp of becoming the first teenager to win the French Open women’s title since Iva Majoli in 1997.
“Barty has so much variety, a little more experience and I think she’s had a better year so far and a good claycourt season,” said Eurosport expert and 18-time Grand Slam champion Chris Evert.
“Vondrousova is younger, and she should feel no pressure, but the question is — in her first Grand Slam final, will she feel pressure?
“In the final a lot will depend on who can hold their nerve the best.”
Mast Wilander, a three-time French Open champion and Eurosport analyst, believes Barty has all the qualities to become the ninth champion in the last 10 women’s majors.
“In terms of tennis IQ, she’s up there with the likes of (Roger) Federer,” the Swede said.
But a Grand Slam final is sometimes decided on nerves and 23-year-old Barty, whose previous best run at a major came in this year’s Australian Open when she reached the quarter-finals, might be better equipped to deal with the occasion.
Vondrousova, who can become the first Czech to win the women’s title since Hana Mandlikova in 1981, has never set foot on Court Philippe Chatrier, the 15,000 seater that hosts the finals. .
“I’ve never been there. I never played there. It’s going to be something new,” said the 19-year-old, whose guile has worked wonders so far and
“But I like those big courts. I’m just really looking forward (to it). I just watched Lucie Safarova when she played the final there (in 2015) when I was a junior, but I never played there. So it’s going to be something huge.”
Whether Vondrousova, whose best Grand Slam performance had been reaching the last 16 at the 2018 U.S. Open, can cope with the pressure might be the key to the final.
“The only way to approach it is to go out and enjoy it, have fun, try and play with freedom,” said Barty.
“That’s ultimately when I play my best tennis and that’s what we are after,” added the eighth seed, who hopes to emulate Margaret Court, the last Australian woman to win here.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)