World no. 1 Ashleigh Barty and Marketa Vondrousova meet in an Adelaide quarterfinal rematch of the French Open final on Thursday.
Ashleigh Barty vs Marketa Vondrousova is live from Adelaide on Thursday 16 January at 6.30pm local/8am GMT
Barty is aiming to reach her first semifinal of 2020 in Adelaide after making the semifinals or better at eight tournaments throughout her stellar 2019 season, which saw her win a maiden Grand Slam at the French Open, rise to world no. 1, and claim the WTA Finals Shenzhen, Miami Open and Birmingham titles to boot.
Defeated at the Apia International Sydney – the tournament which has now become the Adelaide International – by Petra Kvitova in the 2019 final, Barty was unable to get off to a winning start for 2020 in Brisbane last week when she was beaten by on-fire qualifier Jennifer Brady, 6-4, 7-6(4).
Brady was on brilliant form in Brisbane, where she also beat Maria Sharapova, and Barty took the defeat in her stride, moving on to Adelaide where she got the first singles win of her season against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
The world no. 1 had to come back from a set down against Pavlyuchenkova, always a dangerous floater who plays well in Australia and is looking especially threatening now she is being coached by Sam Sumyk. The Russian’s clean ball-striking and first-strike tennis rocked Barty back on her heels in the first set and robbed the Australian of her ability to dictate points, especially because her first serve wasn’t as good as it sometimes is, but Barty didn’t panic, upping the aggression on her first delivery in the second and third sets.
Pavlyuchenkova came back from 2-5 to 5-5 in the third set as she once again hit a rich vein of almost untouchable hitting, but Barty remained composed and pounced as soon as the Russian cooled off slightly, ending a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory with 11 aces.
‘Anastasia has the ability to take control away from you. She’s very aggressive from her first strike and she’s one of the cleanest ball strikers out there.
‘I think in this match-up, we have played numerous times, I have to kind of bide my time and try and hang in there as best as I can when she’s in control of the match and then when I can kind of wrestle that control back and try and be more assertive.’
Having levelled her head-to-head against Pavlyuchenkova to 3-3, Barty will face another familiar face in Marketa Vondrousova in the quarterfinals – albeit one who plays a very different style.
Barty and Vondrousova faced off most famously in the final of the 2019 French Open, a tournament which was a watershed moment for both: Barty becoming a Grand Slam champion and elevating herself to a whole different level, Vondrousova breaking through in sensational style and establishing herself as one of the brightest young talents on the WTA Tour.
The Czech had won her first WTA Tour title as a 17-year-old ranked world no. 233 in 2017 and only broke into the top 100 at the end of 2018. She went 29-9 throughout a brilliant first six months of 2019, reaching WTA Tour finals in Budapest and Istanbul and making the quarterfinals of Indian Wells, Miami and Rome before her superb stretch culminated in the run to the French Open final.
Then just 19 years old and ranked world no. 38, Vondrousova did get a little lucky with the draw at Roland Garros, taking out four seeds but none ranked higher than 12th-seeded Anastasija Sevastova. But the Czech I like to call ‘Wondrousova’ created a definite impression with her varied, creative game, and although she did not acquit herself very well in the final against Barty, losing 1-6, 3-6, it was still a tremendous tournament and first half of the season for her.
Unfortunately for Vondrousova, she would only play two more tournaments after Roland Garros in 2019, shutting down her season entirely after losing in the first round of Wimbledon due to a wrist injury. As Coco Gauff and Bianca Andreescu took the headlines in the second half of the year, Vondrousova’s run to the French Open final was largely forgotten.
Vondrousova underwent surgery on her left wrist in September and hopefully the problem is behind her, because she really is a remarkably talented shotmaker. Currently ranked world no. 16, Vondrousova has dropped precisely three games in two matches in Adelaide, beating lucky loser Tatjana Maria 6-3, 6-0 before trouncing qualifier Arina Rodionova, who had beaten Sloane Stephens in the first round, 6-0, 6-0.
That’s a 19-game winning streak Vondrousova is bringing into the quarterfinal clash with Barty. Fortunately for the Australian, she has a streak of her own: A 3-0 record against the Czech, having won all six sets in the three matches they have played on grass in 2017, hard courts in 2018 and clay in 2019.
Barty’s brilliant slice backhand, her variety and her comfort level at net does equip her nicely to face a player like Vondrousova, who loves to slice and hit drop shots, although she can also produce plenty of explosive power. Good as Vondrousova is, she hasn’t faced an opponent of Barty’s caliber in quite some time and the Australian should be able to reach her first semifinal of 2020 on Thursday.