PARIS — Under mostly cooperative gray skies and in front of small but enthusiastic crowds on Roland Garros’s secondary stadiums, Ashleigh Barty and Marketa Vondrousova booked spots in the French Open final, surviving blustery switches in momentum and winds.
Vondrousova, 19, lost the first 10 points of her match against 26th-seeded Johanna Konta before steadying herself and finding her range, breaking late in both sets to claim a 7-5, 7-6 (2) win. The match was played on Simonne Mathieu Court, a new 5,000-seat stadium that was the smallest venue for a Grand Slam singles semifinal in decades.
Six minutes later, the eighth-seeded Barty of Australia recovered from an early collapse to finish off her semifinal against the American Amanda Anisimova, winning, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3, on Suzanne Lenglen Court.
[Read more about Rafael Nadal’s victory over Roger Federer in the men’s semifinals.]
Anisimova, 17, had trailed by 0-5, 15-40 in the first set before suddenly surging, reeling off 16 straight points that left Barty, 23, staring down a set and 0-3 deficit midway through the second set.
Told by the on-court interviewer that she would remember the match forever, Barty expressed the residual whiplash she still felt from the herky-jerky ride.
“Both good and bad memories,” she said. “That was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.”
Though she had no clay-court pedigree before this season, Barty has made the transition from her Miami Open title on hardcourts in March look seamless. Her kick serve and topspin forehand bounce high, and her slice dies short, a combination that has caused discombobulating distress to opponent after opponent in Paris.
Though she had a 2-5 record at Roland Garros before this year, Barty will go into Saturday’s final as a favorite against the 38th-ranked Vondrousova, an unseeded left-hander from the Czech Republic. Barty won their two previous matches, on grass in Birmingham, England, in 2017, and on hardcourts in Cincinnati last year.
Vondrousova also had never made it past the second round in two previous runs at Roland Garros, but she has surged into one of the top players on tour in recent months, with a 28-5 record since February, which is the tour’s best.
Born in Sokolov, a small western Czech town near the German border, Vondrousova learned tennis from a coach with a fondness for drop shots that became contagious. The shot has become her signature, and yet another indubitable drop shot winner sealed the win over Konta.
“It’s my thing,” Vondrousova said of the fitting finish. “So I’m just very happy.”
Barty, 23, had her own breakthrough as a teenager, winning the junior Wimbledon title at 15 and reaching three Grand Slam doubles finals in 2013. But she found the expectations placed on her at a young age overwhelming and retreated from the sport for nearly two years, putting down her rackets and taking up professional cricket.
[Read more about Ashleigh Barty’s professional cricket career.]
In her return to tennis, Barty has framed her elite singles play as a team effort, which includes her coach, Craig Tyzzer, and others.
“It’s been an incredible journey the last three years; it’s been an incredible journey the last two weeks,” Barty said. “I feel like I have played some really good tennis, some consistent tennis. Although that level wasn’t there today for the whole match necessarily, it was there when I needed it.”
An ominous weather forecast and presold tickets for two men’s semifinals sessions on the tournament’s primary stadium, Philippe Chatrier Court, left the women’s semifinalists to play at places and times that are rarely used to showcase such major matches.
The match between Konta and Vondrousova started with around 1,500 people watching, an audience that would not be large for a first-round match at Roland Garros, much less a semifinal. Vondrousova’s first match on the Chatrier Court in the tournament will be the final, though she said as a junior she watched her countrywoman Lucie Safarova play the 2015 final there.
In a news conference on Wednesday, the French Open’s tournament director, Guy Forget, suggested that because some WTA events had similarly sized main stadiums, the women would not feel out of place competing in a 5,000-seat venue. Once the schedule was made on Thursday evening, the WTA chief executive, Steve Simon, called it “unfair and inappropriate,” saying one of the semifinals could have preceded the men’s match on Chatrier.
Roger Federer, who, like all of the men’s semifinalists, played his match Friday on the 15,000-seat Chatrier, expressed sympathy with the WTA’s complaints.
“You make it all the way to a semis and you get put on the third-biggest court at 11?” Federer said. “It’s a tough one.”
Konta was measured when asked about the court assignments, saying of the underwhelming atmosphere on Mathieu, “The way it looks probably speaks for itself.”
But after she got a sixth question about the scheduling in her postmatch news conference — this one mentioning that the former French star Amélie Mauresmo had called the decision a “disgrace” — a worn-down Konta said that what was more unfortunate was that women “have to justify their scheduling or their involvement in an event or their salary or their opportunities.”
“I don’t want to sit here and justify where I’m scheduled,” she added. “That’s not my job. My job is to come here and entertain people, and I feel I did that. And I feel I gave people who paid tickets every opportunity to enjoy their French Open experience.
“And if the organizers do not feel that that is something that can be promoted and celebrated, then I think it’s the organizers you need to have a conversation with, not me.”