Ashleigh Barty was up 5-0 in the first set of her French Open semifinal Friday against Amanda Anisimova. She lost it.
Anisimova was up 3-0 in the second set. She lost it.
Such was the topsy-turvy nature of Friday’s match, played in front of a sparse crowd whose numbers were depressed by windy, showery conditions on Court Suzanne Lenglen. And in the end, Barty’s heavy forehand was simply too much for Anisimova, the 17-year-old, unseeded American who had smashed her way to the semifinals with a straight-sets domination of defending champion Simona Halep on Tuesday. The Australian Barty, who once gave up tennis for cricket, pulled away in the third set for a 6-7, 6-3, 6-3 win, advancing to her first Grand Slam final.
“I’m proud of the way I fought and found a way back into that match,” Barty said, per the Associated Press. “It’s just been an amazing journey that I’ve been on. I can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow.”
She will face another teenager, 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, in Saturday’s final. Vondrousova scored a 7-5, 7-6 win over Johanna Konta in a match that was played simultaneously to the one between Barty and Anisimova. She is the first teenager to reach the Roland Garros final since Ana Ivanovic, who also was 19 when she lost to Justine Henin in 2007, and is seeking to become the first teenager to win the French Open since Iva Majoli in 1997. Vondrousova also has yet to lose a set this year at Roland Garros.
Barty, meanwhile, becomes the first Australian to compete for the French Open title since 2010, when Samantha Stosur lost to Francesca Schiavone in straight sets. She also will rise to the No. 3 spot in the world rankings, the highest for an Australian since Wendy Turnbull reached No. 3 in January 1985.
Barty, seeded eighth, seemed as if she was going to make quick work of Anisimova, needing only 12 minutes to take a 5-0 lead in the first set, and she had two set points up 40-15. But Anisimova held serve and preceded to reel off six straight games before winning the first set in a tiebreaker.
In the second set, it was Anisimova’s turn to dominate and then wilt. The young American took a 3-0 lead, winning 17 straight points during that stretch, but Barty would go on a six-game string of her own to win the set, 6-3, the first set lost by Anisimova at this year’s tournament.
The third set featured fewer fireworks, though there was some drama when Anisimova’s coach signaled from the stands that play should be halted because of rain. The umpire checked the lines and determined the match could continue, but the pause seemed to slightly rattle Anisimova: Serving up a break at 2-1, she was promptly broken and could not recover, though Barty needed six match points to close things out.
Ranked 51st in the world, Anisimova seemed unnerved by the windy conditions — there were gusts up to 30 mph — and spitting rain in the early going. But she showed both the poise of a player far beyond her years and the lapses of the 17-year-old that she actually is. Anisimova finished with 41 unforced errors, a bunch coming during her early troubles. In the end, she will have to settle for being the youngest American to reach a Grand Slam semifinal since Venus Williams at the 1997 U.S. Open.