Something new: A French Open final for Barty, Vondrousova

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PARIS (AP) Ash Barty won 17 of the initial 18 points in her French Open semifinal against 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova to lead 5-0 after 12 minutes – and yet somehow lost that set.

Barty then lost the initial 12 points of the second set to trail 3-0 – and yet somehow won it.

So it was fitting, perhaps, that Barty not only fell behind by a break in the deciding set before coming back to take control, but also that she required a half-dozen match points to finally close things out.

Barty, an Australian seeded No. 8, reached her first Grand Slam final by steadying herself and emerging to beat Anisimova, an American ranked 51st, by a score of 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3 in a topsy-turvy contest on a windy, rainy Friday.

“I played some really good tennis. I played some pretty awful tennis,” said Barty, a 23-year-old who took nearly two years away from the sport starting in 2014 to switch to cricket before returning to the tour.

“I’m just proud of myself the way I was able to fight and scrap and hang in there and find a way,” she said, “when I kind of threw away that first set.”

After ending Anisimova’s breakthrough run, Barty now takes on another unseeded teen for the championship Saturday: 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic.

Vondrousova, ranked just 38th, reached her first major final by overcoming a shaky start in each set and eliminating No. 26 Johanna Konta of Britain 7-5, 7-6 (2).

Vondrousova has not dropped a set in the tournament and can become the first teenager to win the French Open since Iva Majoli in 1997.

“Best week of my life so far,” Vondrousova said. “I’m just very happy with everything.”

That was Barty’s mood at the outset of her semifinal, which then took quite a turn. Several, actually.

With Anisimova serving down 0-5, 15-40, Barty held two sets points. From there, Anisimova began playing the way she did in her quarterfinal upset of defending champion Simona Halep – and Barty suddenly lost her way. Anisimova took six consecutive games. In the tiebreaker, more of the same: Barty went up 4-2, but Anisimova collected the last five points.

“Pretty tough to come to terms with,” Barty said of her first-set collapse. “Probably never done that to myself before.”

When Anisimova claimed that set with a forehand winner, she raised both arms aloft, looking like someone who had just won the entire match. Not quite, kid.

Still, that momentum carried her to a lead in the second set, before Barty went on a seven-game run of her own to go ahead 1-0 in the third.

Not ready to quit, Anisimova broke to lead 2-1 and had just fended off three break points when, at deuce, her coach signaled from the stands that play should stop because the rain picked up. Anisimova paused while the chair umpire climbed down to check whether the lines were slippery, but determined play could continue.

The little pause might have been enough to break Anisimova’s concentration. Sure played as if it did.

Barty broke there and went on a four-game burst. As the match slipped away, Anisimova had distress written all over her face. After one lost point, she clutched her racket against her chest like a pillow. After another, she balled up her right hand into a fist and landed a punch on each thigh.

“She just outplayed me, basically,” Anisimova said.

Vondrousova did not start her major semifinal debut well, either. She double-faulted twice in the opening game while ceding the first 10 points, and faced three set points down 5-3.

On Konta’s first chance, she badly missed a swinging forehand volley.

“That’s what I would do nine times out of 10. And probably nine times out of 10, it probably would go in,” Konta said. “I definitely don’t regret anything.”

Perhaps, but she never recovered in that set. And in the second, Konta again blew a 5-3 edge.

Konta, the only member of the women’s final four with previous Grand Slam semifinal experience, is now 0-3 in that round at majors. This time, she was undone by Vondrousova, a left-hander who appears to possess every shot there is, with an enviable variety of speeds and angles.

“She’s a tricky player,” Konta said. “That’s what she does well.”

The semifinals were played in difficult conditions, in drizzle, wind that reached 12 mph (20 kph) and temperatures of about 60 degrees (15 Celsius). The matches also were played at unusual courts – scheduling that was criticized by women’s tennis tour CEO Steve Simon as “unfair and inappropriate.”

Normally, all French Open singles semifinals are held in Court Philippe Chatrier, with the women on Thursday and men on Friday. But after a full day of play was washed out by rain Wednesday, tournament officials shuffled the schedule. The women’s semifinals were held simultaneously at the second- and third-biggest courts at Roland Garros instead of the main stadium, starting just after 11 a.m.

Asked whether this felt like a major semifinal, Konta replied: “I mean, in terms of the surrounding and the occasion, probably not. … In terms of the match itself, probably.”

Madison Keys rallies late to take 1st Cincinnati title

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MASON, Ohio (AP) Madison Keys rallied late in both sets and beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 7-6 (5) for her first Cincinnati championship Sunday, sending her into the U.S. Open on a one-week upswing.

By winning her first hardcourt final since the 2017 U.S. Open, she’ll be No. 10 when she returns to New York. Keys entered the tournament on a streak of early flameouts in her last three tournaments.

At 34, Kuznetsova was the oldest finalist in the Western & Southern Open’s history. Keys broke her late in both sets to win the title. Kuznetsova beat three top-10 players during the week, her best showing of a season that started late as she recovered from a knee injury.

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Djokovic loses in Cincinnati

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MASON, Ohio (AP) Ashleigh Barty’s chance to move back to No. 1 was only one victory away. At the end of an up-and-down week, she didn’t have another comeback left.

Neither did Novak Djokovic, who went away with yet another disappointment in Cincinnati.

Barty lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-4 in the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open on Saturday. Djokovic ended the day with another stunner, getting overwhelmed by Daniil Medvedev’s serve as the Russian pulled out a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory.

It’s been that kind of week in Cincinnati, with top players in both brackets either struggling or hurt heading into the U.S. Open.

The women’s bracket has a lot questions with New York just around the corner. No. 1 isn’t one of them.

Barty’s seven-week run atop the field ended when Naomi Osaka edged ahead of her in the latest ranking. A victory Saturday would have moved Barty back ahead for the U.S. Open. Instead, she dropped the opening set for the third straight match and this time, there was no digging out.

“A week that we battled through,” Barty said. “I think at times I played some good stuff. At times, I played some pretty awful stuff.”

Which will it be for Barty at the Open? And will Osaka be in good enough shape to defend her title?

Osaka dropped out of her semifinal match Friday with discomfort in her left knee that caused her worry. She still plans to play in New York, but it’s unclear whether the knee will be a problem.

And then there’s Serena Williams, who retired in the finals at Toronto last Sunday because of back spasms. She also withdrew from Cincinnati before her first match, but stuck around to cheer sister Venus until her loss in the quarterfinals.

A resurgent Kuznetsova gave Barty no openings, knocking off a top-five player for the second time this week to reach her first final of the season. The 153rd-ranked player is recovering from seven-month layoff because of a knee injury.

In her ninth tournament of the season, she got her game together, winning her first Premier-level semifinal since 2017 at Madrid.

“Well, sometimes in life it’s like this,” Kuznetsova said. “It’s like really small things change everything. Definitely it’s different momentum I have now.”

She’ll face Madison Keys , who beat Sofia Kenin 7-5, 6-4 with the help of 14 aces. Keys ended her streak of failing to make it past the second round of her last three tournaments, playing through heat and humidity all week without problem.

“I feel really good” she said. “Every day I’m kind of waking up, hoping that everything still feels like it’s in one piece and it feels really good.”

In the men’s bracket, Djokovic overcame concerns about his right elbow but couldn’t prevail over Medvedev’s 14 aces. Djokovic got the muscles around his right elbow rubbed during his quarterfinal win on Friday night and showed no sign of a problem a day later.

Djokovic won the tournament for the first time last year, getting the only Masters 1000 title that had eluded him. This one slipped away in the second set.

Medvedev reached the final at Montreal last week and lost to Rafael Nadal. He’s back to a title match again after fighting off a break point midway through the second set and closing with a flurry, winning 12 of the last 14 points to even the match and take the momentum.

He’ll face David Goffin, who reached his first Masters 1000 final by beating Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-4 . Goffin also is on an upswing after falling to No. 33 in the ATP rankings on June 10, his lowest since September 2014.

“Of course, it was a tough period there,” Goffin said. “I was coming back from injuries. I had some trouble with my confidence. I couldn’t find my rhythm, my game. So it’s great now. I’m feeling great. I’m back at my best tennis.”

The men’s bracket also took several notable hits throughout the week.

Originally billed as a reunion of the Big Four – Djokovic, Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray together for the first time since January – it quickly lost its luster. Nadal dropped out after winning the Rogers Cup, citing fatigue. Murray played singles for the first time since hip surgery in January and lost his opening match.

And Federer, the seven-time champion, failed to reach the weekend, losing in the quarterfinals.

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