Aussie claims French Open victory as Nadal aims for 12th title

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Newstalk ZB ,
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Publish Date
Sunday, 9 June 2019, 4:32PM
Ash Barty has ended Australia's long drought at the French Open. (Photo / AP)

The French Open is nearing the end of another tournament, with an exciting women’s final paving the way for an even more anticipated men’s showdown.

Ash Barty has claimed the Women’s trophy, becoming the first Australian to win at the Roland Garros since 1973.

Taking control right from the start of the French Open final and never really letting go, the No. 8-seeded Barty capped a quick-as-can-be rise in her return to the sport by beating unseeded 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-3 Saturday for her first major championship.

"I never closed any doors, saying, 'I'm never playing tennis again.' For me, I needed time to step away, to live a normal life because this tennis life certainly isn't normal. I think I needed time to grow as a person, to mature," Barty said.

And as for why she came back three years ago?

"I missed the competition. I missed the 1-on-1 battle, the ebbs and the flows, the emotions you get from winning and losing matches," said Barty, who will jump to a career-best No. 2 in the rankings Monday behind Naomi Osaka. "They are so unique and you can only get them when you're playing and when you put yourself out on the line and when you become vulnerable and try and do things that no one thinks of."

That last part is an apt description of how she approaches each point, looking for just the right angle or speed, understanding where an opponent might be most vulnerable at any given moment. After using her slice backhand, topspin forehand and kick serve to do just that to Vondrousova, she called it a "kind of 'Ash Barty brand' of tennis."

Vondrousova's take?

"She's mixing things up. And she has a huge serve," Vondrousova said. "So it's all, like, very tough to play against."

Barty raced to a 4-0 lead and then held on, showing that she learned her lesson after blowing a 5-0 edge in the opening set of her quarterfinal victory a day earlier against another unseeded teenager, 17-year-old American Amanda Anisimova.

"An absolute roller-coaster," Barty called it.

Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates winning his semifinal match of the French Open. Photo / AP

Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates winning his semifinal match of the French Open. Photo / AP

Now, the world’s attention turns to the men’s final tonight, where Rafael Nadal aims for a record-extending 12th French Open title against fourth-seeded Dominic Thiem in a rematch of last year's final.

Nadal should be more rested after Thiem needed two days to complete his five-set, four-hour semifinal victory over Novak Djokovic. Nadal beat Thiem in straight sets in last year's final, but Thiem showed against Djokovic that he has the firepower and poise to deal with the top players. Also, Thiem beat Nadal in straight sets in the Barcelona Open semifinals in April.

Nadal, however, has a 92-2 career record at Roland Garros and could become the first man or woman to win the same Grand Slam tournament 12 times. An 18th Grand Slam title overall would also move Nadal within two of Roger Federer's record among men.

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