Three years ago at this time, Ashleigh Barty had just returned to the WTA rankings after the decision to stay away from tennis for a while. On Saturday, the young Aussie will play for the first Grand Slam title in Paris, defeating the 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova 6-7, 6-3, 6-3 in an hour and 53 minutes.
Just like in the first semi-final between Johanna Konta and Marketa Vondrousova, both players fought for the first Grand Slam final and it was the more experienced Aussie who outplayed a teenage sensation in sets two and three to cross the finish line first, only after wasting a massive advantage in the opening set.
Landing only 52% of the first serve in, Barty had to work hard in her service games, losing 42% of the points and suffering five breaks from eight opportunities given to Amanda. On the other hand, the Aussie created 20 break points, seizing eight of those and overcoming a terrible first set outcome to book the place in the final after scoring only two wins in Paris before this year.
Hitting 40 winners and 33 unforced errors, Barty had the advantage over the American who delivered 21 winners and 41 mistakes, keeping her focus and never looking back after trailing 3-0 in set number two. Ashleigh was the only player on the court in the first five games, dropping only three points and forging a 5-0 advantage with a backhand winner after only 12 minutes!
Amanda saved two set points on serve in game six to avoid a bagel and this gave her the necessary boost, starting to hit better and rattling off six straight games to erase the deficit and move 6-5 in front. Ashleigh converted the fourth break point in the 12th game to reach the tie break that Anisimova won 7-4, taking the last five points and the set after 46 minutes after a forehand down the line winner to continue her dream quest.
The youngster was on a steady course towards the final, securing the first 12 points in set number two (17 in a row!) before losing the ground, allowing Barty to bounce back and claim the next six games to gain the momentum.
Anisimova started to spray more errors and Ashleigh was ready to punish every single one of those, breaking in games five, seven and nine to seize the control and become the favorite ahead of the decider. Amanda broke in the third game of the final set to make one last push but that was all we saw from her, with Ashleigh taking five of the remaining six games, sealing the deal after forcing a mistake from Amanda in game nine for the biggest result in a career.