French Open

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.”

WATCH LIVE: French Open semifinals, Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer

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The French Open semifinal between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal is 15 years after their first match against each other. So don’t miss your chance to watch it live.

Click here to watch on NBCSports.com or on the NBC Sports app. You also can watch on NBCSN.

They’ve faced off 38 times in all, and¬†Friday’s showdown will be the sixth installment of Roger vs. Rafa at Roland Garros, always in a semifinal or final, but first there since 2011. Not coincidentally, that was also the last time the top four seeded men were the last four in the draw in Paris. After No. 2 Nadal and No. 3 Federer finish (weather permitting, of course; the forecast called for rain), they’ll be followed in Court Philippe Chatrier by No. 1 Djokovic against No. 4 Dominic Thiem.

Nadal is 91-2 at Roland Garros for his career, 5-0 against Federer. Nadal leads their overall head-to-head 23-15, including 13-2 on clay and 9-3 at majors. Federer has won the last five matches, all on hard courts.

Amanda Anisimova becomes first born in 2000s to reach Grand Slam quarterfinals

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PARIS — To Amanda Anisimova, it seems “like, forever ago” that she was playing in the French Open main draw for the first time.

For the record: It’s been all of two years.

Ah, to be young again.

Still only 17, and ranked 51st, the precocious American with the quick-strike strokes and self-described “effortless shots” became the first player born in the 2000s to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal, overwhelming Aliona Bolsova of Spain 6-3, 6-0 at Roland Garros on Monday and earning the right to face defending champion Simona Halep next.

Anisimova, born in New Jersey and based in Florida, is the youngest U.S. player to get to the round of eight in Paris since Jennifer Capriati in 1993, the youngest from any country since 2006.

Not that she’s keeping track, mind you.

“I have no idea about who did what at what age. People tell me, and then I just forget after a second. I don’t really care about it too much,” said Anisimova, the words flying out of her mouth with the same sort of pace that tennis balls zoom off her racket. “I’m in the present and I want to do good and I hope for good results, but I don’t really think about how old I am.”

Now she will take on the 27-year-old Halep, the No. 3 seed, who dispatched another teenager, Iga Swiatek of Poland, by a 6-1, 6-0 score Monday.

When someone asked about going from an 18-year-old opponent in Swiatek to Anisimova, Halep’s initial reply was: “I feel old.”

“To play against someone 10 years younger than me, that’s not easy. But I feel stronger on court,” she went on to say. “They’re young. They have nothing to lose. So every match is tough.”

Halep is one of only two women left in the draw who already own a major title. The other quarterfinal matchup on her half is No. 8 Ash Barty of Australia against No. 14 Madison Keys of the U.S.

In Tuesday’s quarterfinals on the other half of the bracket, 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens meets No. 26 Johanna Konta of Britain, and No. 31 Petra Martic of Croatia faces 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic.

In the men’s quarterfinals, it’ll be No. 3 Roger Federer vs. No. 24 Stan Wawrinka, and No. 2 Rafael Nadal vs. No. 7 Kei Nishikori on Tuesday, followed by No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs. No. 5 Alexander Zverev, and No. 4 Dominic Thiem vs. No. 10 Karen Khachanov on Wednesday.

Stephens, the runner-up to Halep in Paris a year ago, joins Keys and Anisimova to give the United States a trio of French Open quarterfinalists for the first time since Capriati and the two Williams sisters made it that far in 2004.

If Halep’s first attempt to defend a Grand Slam trophy got off to a shaky start with a pair of three-setters, she is really rounding into form now. She has ceded a total of four games over the past two rounds.

“You have to enjoy the moment,” Halep said.

The key to her success has been remarkable returning: She has won 70% of her opponents’ service games, 30 of 43, which not only leads the tournament but reads as if it’s a misprint.

On the other hand, her own serving has been an issue, tied for 49th in the 128-player draw at a 65% hold rate.

The 5-foot-11 (1.80-meter) Anisimova, meanwhile, takes balls early, not waiting for a full bounce, and uses her strong shots to dictate points and wrong-foot her opponents.

“She just showed up,” said Bolsova, a qualifier ranked 137th. “She took the initiative.”

Before heading out for their match, Anisimova watched Halep play and took notes.

“I was, like, `Oh, my God, her backhand down the line is so good and she was taking her time,” Anisimova said, “and then I think I was mimicking it in my match.”

To Anisimova, this feels as if it’s the next natural step in what’s been a fast progression.

This is only her fourth Grand Slam appearance – she reached the fourth round at the Australian Open in January.

She was the 2016 junior runner-up in Paris, then the 2017 junior champion at the U.S. Open. Earlier that season, at age 15, she picked up a U.S. Tennis Association wild card into the French Open for her debut at a major.

“Even though I was in the main draw, I was still in the qualifying locker room. I didn’t even know they had a locker room here,” she said Monday. “I’m aware of that now.”

If she keeps playing like this, the world will be aware of her very shortly.