19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova became the first teenage Roland Garros finalist in 12 years with a gritty comeback semifinal defeat of Johanna Konta.
Alex Macpherson
June 7, 2019

PARIS, France - Unseeded 19-year-old-Marketa Vondrousova overcame a nervy start to reach her first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros 2019, saving three set points in the first set and coming from a break down in both before defeating No.26 seed Johanna Konta 7-5, 7-6(2) in one hour and 45 minutes.

The World No.38's victory in blustery conditions means that she becomes the first teenage finalist in Paris since a 19-year-old Ana Ivanovic in 2007, as well as the first Czech to reach the title round here since the just-retired Lucie Safarova in 2015. Vondrousova, whose arm tattoo reads 'No rain, no flower' and who is yet to concede a set this fortnight, extends her win-loss record in 2019 to 28-6 with her third final of the season - and avenges a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 loss to Konta in the Rome quarterfinals three weeks ago.

Rabat and Rome runner-up Konta was the only player in this year's semifinal lineup to have reached the last four at a major before, at the 2016 Australian Open and Wimbledon 2017 - and she settled into the occasion much more rapidly than Vondrousova, who had never progressed beyond the fourth round of a Grand Slam before this tournament. Two double faults from the Czech in the opening game and a slew of unforced errors indicated some anxiety, and Konta would rub it in further with some blistering backhand winners as she captured the first 10 points of the match for a 2-0 lead.

However, Vondrousova's grittiness would come to the fore as she somehow held from 0-30 down, and then battled through a mini-tussle on Konta's serve to break back on her fifth opportunity. Though the Briton, still striking backhand rockets with ease, would subsequently move up a break again, Vondrousova was now firmly in the match - and, serving to stay in the set, clung on to force a turning point.

Konta would carve out three set points, but sent a wild drive volley over the baseline on the first - and then, with Vondrousova defending doggedly, tapped a dropshot into the net on the second. The Budapest and Istanbul runner-up staved off the third with an unreturnable serve - and from there, took control of the set. Konta's attempt to serve it out passed in a flurry of sudden unforced errors - and with Vondrousova's own finesse now coming to the fore, the teenager captured each of the final two games of the set with pinpoint lobs.

Konta would regain control of her power as the second set got under way, breaking Vondrousova in the third game as the 2017 Biel/Bienne champion eased off and threw in a few loose errors. Tallying a 70% first serve percentage, Konta was able to maintain her lead - until, once again, she reached the brink of the set.

Serving at 5-4, Konta's backhand in particular let her down: it has been the former World No.4's most lethal wing this fortnight, but by the end of today had contributed over half of her 41 unforced errors. With that chance gone, it was Vondrousova who would again come up with moments of magic at the tightest moments. The 2015 girls' doubles champion (alongside Miriam Kolodziejova) got the better of Konta in a rat-a-tat net exchange as she fought her way back into the set, and in the ensuing tiebreak conjured up a forehand pass at full stretch to move into an unassailable 5-2 lead.

By now, Konta's dropshots - one of her most improved weapons over this year's clay swing - had become an Achilles heel, often essayed at ill-chosen points in the rally and offering Vondrousova easy opportunities to put the ball away. There was little wrong with that stroke from the Czech side, though: Vondrousova's touch on it has been consistently remarkable this year, and appropriately enough, it was an audacious but delectable dropshot that died on the muddy clay that sealed a wondrous win today.