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Czech teenager Vondrousova to face Konta in first Grand Slam semifinal

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 4 Jun 2019
  • Marketa Vondrousova has reached her first Grand Slam semifinal at the French Open
  • 19-year-old Vondrousova beat Petra Martic 7-6(1), 7-5
  • Vondrousova will face Johanna Konta in the semifinals
Marketa Vondrousova falls to her knees after reaching her first French Open semifinal (PA Sports)

Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova will face Johanna Konta in the French Open semifinals.

Nineteen-year-old Marketa Vondrousova has reached her first Grand Slam semifinal at Roland Garros and will face Johanna Konta on Thursday, with the winner advancing to their first major final in Paris.

Unseeded Vondrousova follows in the footsteps of recent French Open semifinalists from the Czech Republic, including 2015 finalist Lucie Safarova, 2012 semifinalist Petra Kvitova and 2017 semifinalist Karolina Pliskova.

Safarova bid an emotional goodbye to professional tennis at this year's tournament, but Kvitova and Pliskova were both among the top eight seeds and had won big titles in the run-up to the French Open. Few would have predicted that Vondrousova would get further at Roland Garros than either of them (although we did), but Kvitova had to withdraw before her first match due to a forearm injury, and Pliskova lost in the third round to Petra Martic, Vondrousova's quarterfinal opponent.

Vondrousova in action (PA Sports)
Vondrousova, meanwhile, has not dropped a set on her way to the semifinals, overcoming an 0-4 head-to-head and a deficit of experience to beat Martic 7-6(1), 7-5 in a quarterfinal that showcased the skill and variety of both women's games.

Taking Court Suzanne-Lenglen after 7pm, following a four-set men's quarterfinal between Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka which had been interrupted by rain for about an hour, Vondrousova and Martic faced off in a rematch of the TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Cup final in April. 

That match had seen Vondrousova take her first set from Martic in four attempts before losing in three and with that match also played on clay, it didn't seem a stretch to envisage a similar outcome. As she had in Istanbul, Vondrousova drew first blood, breaking in the fifth game to establish a 3-2 lead. Drop shots are a major feature of both women's games, but the left-handed Vondrousova won that battle throughout the match as she anticipated Martic's use of that shot well to chase them down for a winner, while doing a better job of following her own up with a second shot for a winner. It was chasing down a drop shot from Martic that got Vondrousova's teeth into the Czech's service game at 2-2 for 30-30, and she struck a forehand winner down the line (another key play for her) to break.

In that Istanbul final, a big key to Martic's comeback was to play a lot more patiently and be willing to trade with Vondrousova off the ground in long rallies, and Martic did just that in Paris on Tuesday to break back immediately before reeling off three games in a row to lead 5-3 as Vondrousova struggled to control her forehand in baseline exchanges. 

Petra Martic in action (PA Sports)
Vondrousova flipped the script as Martic served for the set, however. At 30-30, Vondrousova read Martic's cross-court backhand and was waiting to whip it up the line with her left-handed forehand before showing that she, too, could hang in deep, lengthy baseline rallies, outlasting the Croatian to break back for 4-5. Vondrousova had to dig out of 0-30 to hold in the next game and found herself down three set points two games later as she trailed 0-40 at 5-6. But not for the last time in the match, Vondrousova lifted her game with her back against the wall, playing three perfect points to save the set points - chasing down Martic's drop shot for a winner, striking a backhand winner down the line and serving her first ace of the match - to erase the set points before holding with a backhand winner to take the set to a tie-break.

After an exchange of mini-breaks left Martic leading 2-1, Vondrousova went on a tear. She ended a long rally with a perfectly-played drop shot winner for 3-1 and reeled off the next four points, including a perfect lob for 5-1 and a deep return to get the error on set point. The Czech teenager's momentum continued in the second set as Vondrousova broke serve immediately; when she held to love for a 3-0 lead, she had won 24 of the last 27 points.

A slip and fall in the next game seemed to rattle Vondrousova, and her level dropped to be broken back. But the dip was only momentary. Roaring back to break Martic at 4-2, Vondrousova consolidated the break to lead 5-2 and put herself one game away from the French Open semifinals as she yet again chased down a Martic drop shot to steal the point from under the Croatian's nose. 

Martic congratulates Vondrousova (PA Sports)
Serving to stay in the match, Martic had two game points at 2-5, 40-15, but was pegged back to deuce by a brilliant return winner from Vondrousova and framed a forehand to give up a match point. Martic saved it in style with a serve and a forehand winner and went on to hold, forcing Vondrousova to serve for the match.

It proved to be crucial. In an excruciatingly tense game at 5-3, a clearly very tight Vondrousova earned a second match point, but served a horrendous double fault. The Czech's depth on the ball in rallies had suddenly deserted her, allowing Martic to step in and open her shoulders, and the Croatian was more than happy to do so, converting her third break point to break back for 4-5. Able to dictate play from inside the baseline for really the first time in the match, Martic held for 5-5 as the light faded in Paris - but a couple of unforced errors let a reeling Vondrousova off the hook at 5-5, and holding serve seemed to steady the Czech. As Martic served at 5-6, Vondrousova earned a third match point, this one saved by Martic in style with a forehand winner - but a netted overhead off a Vondrousova lob created a fourth, and once again Martic made the fatal mistake of playing a drop shot. Vondrousova chased it down and sent the ball back, and Martic couldn't control the lob. 

Vondrousova fell to her knees, her back still stained with clay, while Martic swallowed her disappointment to greet and congratulate the Czech warmly at net. 

The first player born after 1997 to reach a Grand Slam semifinal, Vondrousova will face Johanna Konta, who beat Sloane Stephens earlier in the day, for the chance to become the first Czech since Safarova in 2015 to make the French Open final. Vondrousova and Konta have split their two meetings, with Konta winning in three sets in Rome a few weeks ago.

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Czech teenager Vondrousova to face Konta in first Grand Slam semifinal

At just 19, Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic is into her first Grand Slam semifinal at the French Open after a thrilling win over Petra Martic

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