Rafael Nadal claims 12th French Open title with 6-3 5-7 6-1 6-1 victory over Dominic Thiem at Roland Garros

9 Jun

Rafael Nadal kept his iron grip on the Coupe des Mousquetaires by beating Dominic Thiem in four sets to win a 12th French Open title.

It was a repeat of last year’s final and, although Thiem managed to win a set this time, he was unable to join Robin Soderling and Novak Djokovic as the only men to beat Nadal at Roland Garros, going down 6-3 5-7 6-1 6-1.

Rafael Nadal won his 12th French Open crown on Sunday at Roland Garros
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Nadal now stands on his own as the most successful singles player, male or female, at a single grand slam having moved clear of the 11 titles won by Margaret Court at the Australian Open.

His 18th slam title overall, meanwhile, means for the first time he has closed to within two of his great rival Roger Federer, whose all-time men’s record of 20 titles appears increasingly within reach for either Nadal or Djokovic.

Thiem was trying to do what only Stan Wawrinka has managed by beating Djokovic and Nadal at the same slam, and Wawrinka did not do it back-to-back.

As if he did not have the odds against him enough already, the Austrian was also playing for the fourth day in a row after his epic two-day semi-final win over Djokovic, while Nadal had had a day off either side of a comfortable semi-final win over Roger Federer.

Dominic Thiem of Austria plays a forehand
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But Nadal is almost untouchable on clay
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Thiem knows how it feels to beat Nadal on clay having done so in each of the last four seasons, but only in best-of-three-set matches.

The first seven games were a physical war, both men growling and pummelling the ball back across the net with ever increasing vigour.

French Open 2019: Ashleigh Barty claims first ever Grand Slam singles title with straight sets win over Marketa Vondrousova in women’s final

8 Jun

Ashleigh Barty won her first ever Grand Slam singles title with a convincing victory over Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova in the women’s final at the French Open.

The 23-year-old Australian took time out from the game in 2014, citing too much pressure before returning three years ago, via playing professional cricket, ranked outside the top 600.

Barty is the 2019 French Open women’s singles champion
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She has been on an upward trajectory ever since and was totally in control of this meeting of two first-time Grand Slam singles finalists, winning 6-1 6-3 in just an hour and 10 minutes.

Barty, who will be ranked second in the world on Monday, is the first Australian woman to win a Slam singles title since Sam Stosur at the US Open in 2011 and the first in Paris since Margaret Court in 1973.

This was a crushing end to a superb fortnight for Vondrousova, who had hoped to emulate Jelena Ostapenko’s achievement of two years ago by winning the title as an unseeded player, but she will be ranked 16th on Monday and will surely have more chances at Slam level.

While this was not the final many would have predicted, it was a meeting between two of the most in-form players of 2019.

Barty has soared into the top 10 while Vondrousova, who began the year ranked 67, has won more matches since the Australian Open than any other woman.

Hanging around for an hour and a half while the delayed men’s semi-final between Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem was completed would hardly have helped either of their nerves.

Vondrousova had begun very shakily in her semi-final against Johanna Konta, and it was the same again here, but this time she did not receive any help from her opponent.

Barty, who had been considered a potential Slam champion on faster surfaces but not clay, was in the groove from the start, serving strongly and placing the ball confidently into the corners.

Barty raced to win the first set, winning 6-1
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The Australian had been 5-0 up against Amanda Anisimova in the last four only to lose the first set but there was no sign of her letting her grip go here.

Vondrousova’s touch-based, tactical game makes her a tricky opponent for lots of players but Barty plays a similar style and was not unsettled by the drop shots and lobs coming her way.

The Australian is one of the world’s leading doubles players and won her first grand slam title in that format at the US Open last year with American Coco Vandeweghe.

Vondrousova desperately needed to get some kind of foothold in the match, and she dug in to hold for 1-2 in the second set.

Vondrousova was unable to get a foot-hold in the match throughout
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She was at least doing a much better job of holding her serve but she was unable to make any headway on Barty’s and at 3-5 found herself serving to stay in the match.

A netted forehand brought up a first match point for Barty, which she took with a simple smash before raising her arms in the air.

This may not be the last time the two players meet in a Grand Slam final
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Johanna Konta loses to Marketa Vondrousova in French Open semi-final

7 Jun

Johanna Konta lost in straight-sets in her French Open semi-final to Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova.

Konta saw her chances of reaching her first grand slam final slip away as she squandered winning positions in both sets as she was beaten 7-5, 7-6 at Roland Garros.

Johanna Konta was beaten in straight sets by Marketa Vondrousova at the French Open
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The 28-year-old was aiming to be the first British woman to win a grand slam singles title since Virginia Wade at Wimbledon in 1977 – but she instead lost her third straight semi-final.

In the end it was 19-year-old Vondrousova who showed the greater composure, coming back from 5-3 down in both sets.

The first set was a particularly bitter pill to swallow for Konta, who had three set points at 5-3 only to lose four games in a row.

As the players took golf carts out into the botanic gardens, where a disappointingly sparse crowd had gathered for the hastily-arranged contest on Court Simonne Mathieu, Konta looked relaxed.

But this was a different scenario from her two previous semi-finals given she found herself, remarkably, as the most experienced player left in the tournament.

Konta was aiming to reach her first grand slam final
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Vondrousova had never been beyond the fourth round at a slam before and her nerves were obvious in the first game with back-to-back double faults, while Konta clinched the break with a backhand winner down the line.

By the time Vondrousova won her first point, Konta had already won 10, but the British player let her opponent off the hook by placing a forehand wide of the open court and that settled the Czech down.

The threatened rain mostly held off but wind was whipping the clay off the court, something that Sloane Stephens felt had helped the aggressive game of Konta in their one-sided quarter-final.

Vondrousova is an excellent mover, though, and Konta was finding it much harder to hit through her than she had Stephens.

After dropping serve and then immediately regaining her break, Konta looked to have the set in her control when she brought up two set points at 3-5.

The drive volley that she blazed long and wide on the first will surely appear in her nightmares, and that set the tone for what followed.

Konta missed the next chance, too, and then another, and began to make poor tactical decisions, getting sucked into playing Vondrousova’s game instead of trusting her own.

Konta was unable to serve out the set, and was then broken again to lose it, leaving a Vondrousova lob that landed on the baseline.

Under coach Dimitri Zavialoff, Konta has regained the mental composure that was so striking when she hit a high of fourth in the rankings two years ago.

Underneath, though, the 28-year-old is of a nervous disposition and it was not surprising that it was bubbling to the surface on this high-pressure occasion.

Konta desperately needed a good start to the second set and she made it, stopping the run of games against her at five and then breaking for a 2-1 lead.

She found herself in the same position as she had in the opener, this time serving at 5-4 to take the match to a decider, but again she was unable to overcome the tension.

A double fault handed the break to Vondrousova and moments later Konta was serving to stay in the match.

She at least managed to force a tie-break this time but the tactical surety that she had shown during the rest of the tournament was missing.

That was to take nothing away from her opponent, who played like the more experienced competitor and clinched a place in her first slam final with a typically precise backhand drop shot.