The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Lindsay Gibbs, June 11, 2019
A Barty Party, French Open round-up, language lessons with Kiki and Timea
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So friends, here we are. We now live in a world where Ash Barty is Roland Garros champion. And I absolutely love it.
I’ve talked to you all about Barty’s story in this space before — an Aussie teen prodigy who quit tennis at 18 to go play professional cricket, only to return to the sport three years ago without a ranking, and climb her way to the top, on her own terms. She is now 23, and ranked No. 2 in the world. And it feels like the beginning of something special; like, I don’t see Barty as a player that is going to cower under the increased pressure she’ll be under, because as an Australian, she’s been under an absurd amount of pressure for the last 10 years.
But mainly I’m hopeful about her future because of the way she handled herself at the French Open. In the semifinals, she withstood a topsy-turvy 7-6, 6-3, 6-3 match against 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova. It was not always a pretty match, but Barty gritted her way through it.
Then, in the final, she faced another teen upstart, 19-year-old Czech lefty Marketa Vondrousova. Barty was the favorite. All the pressure was on her shoulders. She’d never been on this stage before, either. And she proceeded to play what she called her best possible tennis, and trounced a shell-shocked Vondrousova, 6-1, 6-3.
“Then today I just kept saying to myself, I may never get this opportunity ever again, so try and grab it with both hands,” Barty told reporters after the match.
“I felt like for me it was the perfect tennis match, considering the situation, the conditions, and kind of all of the above. It was amazing.”
As I said before, I don’t believe that this will be the last time Barty has the chance to play for a major title; in fact, I believe she’ll make it to at least one more final in the next three majors. Because she’s been building for this moment, she’s been setting the foundation mentally and emotionally and physically to sustain this success, and she’s wise beyond her years. I truly believe the Barty Party has just begun.
If you don’t trust me, just listen to her advice to young players, who are dreaming of following in her footsteps.
“I think, you know, it’s about creating your own path, creating your own journey, and embracing it. There’s no formula how to become a professional tennis player. It’s your own, it’s unique, your own journey, your own path, your own experience,” she said.
“I think the best thing to do is learn from your mistakes, learn from every single experience that you have, whether it’s good or bad. That’s the only way to go about it, only way to grow as a person and as a player.”
This Week in Tennis
Look, I didn’t want to use the top of this column to focus on sexism, because I did that last week, and I just get tired, you know? But women were extremely short-changed then it came to scheduling this year — yes, again — and I wanted to share Johanna Konta’s response to these struggles, because it’s perfect.
I mean, I know you guys want headlines on this and you want me to say something really juicy. I’m not oblivious to that (smiling).
But I think more than anything, what is tiring and what is really unfortunate in this more than anything is that women have to sit — you know, athletes, female athletes, have to sit in different positions and have to justify their scheduling or their involvement in an event or their salary or their opportunities. And I think to give time to that is even more of a sad situation than what we found ourselves in today in terms of the scheduling.
I think — I don’t want to sit here and justify where I’m scheduled. That’s not my job. My job is to come here and entertain people, and I feel I did that. And I feel I gave people who paid tickets every opportunity to enjoy their French Open experience.
And if the organizers do not feel that that is something that can be promoted and celebrated, then I think it’s the organizers you need to have a conversation with, not me, because I did my job and I did my job well.
A must-read and/or listen interview between Barty and Courtney Nguyen.
I do not like the framing of this story. I guarantee you if the women had three players dominating for the past decade like the men have, it would not be written about in a positive light!
I love the love that Vondrousova received when she returned to Prague.
Here’s Christopher Clarey on the precocious Amanda Anisimova.
SI digs into Johanna Konta’s clay-court turnaround.
Everyone loves Barty. Including me.
The Guardian compares Konta and Barty’s mindsets headed into grass-court season.
Speaking of grass-court season, Venus Williams has taken a wild card into Birmingham. Maria Sharapova has taken a wild card into Mallorca. Both of those events are next week.
This week, here’s the draw for the Libéma Open in the Netherlands, where Kiki Bertens is the top seed; and the draw for the Nature Valley Open in Nottingham, where Caroline Garcia is the top seed.
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Kristina Mladenovic and Timea Babos
We never give enough attention to doubles, so I’d love to highlight the championship doubles press conference with Kristina Mladenovic and Timea Babos. They’re good friends, Mladeonvic is French, Mladenovic is now No. 1 in the world It is lovely.
Q. Kristina, this is the third Grand Slam title. What does it mean to you?
KRISTINA MLADENOVIC: Every single one is very special and memorable and lots of emotions. But I think this one comes on top, I would say, somehow for me, because it’s very special.
It’s my second in women’s doubles in Roland Garros, but I get to share it with Timea. I think we said it enough. I hope the whole globe knows how amazing this girl is to me.
Yeah, I have no words to describe it. If you ask me with who and where I would share something, it would be that trophy with her. I’m overwhelmed today, yeah.
Q. Same question for you, Timea. What does it mean?
TIMEA BABOS: Same answer for you (smiling).
No, obviously I’m pretty thrilled. This is what we are working hard for. As you guys know, we are not necessarily like doubles specialists, but it somehow turns out to be that we are really good at it, and we really complement each other well.
I’m very, very happy that I could feel also this special moment how it is to play in Kiki’s home.
KRISTINA MLADENOVIC: My home (smiling)?
TIMEA BABOS: Yeah. And just to share these emotions with her.
I mean, every single final is amazing. Thankfully we experienced a lot of finals, but the last two didn’t go in our way, which was pretty sad and it was tough moments, but today we really found our way how to win this title together.
I’m very, very happy about it. And that the French people know that I can speak a little bit of French (smiling).
KRISTINA MLADENOVIC: Highlight of the day.
Q. Kristina, do you learn Hungarian?
KRISTINA MLADENOVIC: (Speaking Hungarian.)
TIMEA BABOS: You know a lot.
KRISTINA MLADENOVIC: Yeah, I know (speaking Hungarian). I will stop with this. I know lots of things.
TIMEA BABOS: She speaks enough language. It’s me who has to catch up.
KRISTINA MLADENOVIC: I’m already struggling to learn German. So I think Hungarian sounds like Chinese in Europe for the Europeans. Hopefully maybe I can get few words in a row at some point (smiling).
THE MODERATOR: Questions in French.
TIMEA BABOS: I’ll leave.
Q. Congratulations, first of all. You have answered my question partly in English, but why is this title so special?
KRISTINA MLADENOVIC: Each title in a Grand Slam is fabulous. I have no words to describe it. Every time it’s a huge title, an adventure. The weeks of Grand Slam tournaments are extremely long, and it’s my privilege to having gone through quite a few of them already.
Obviously it’s something that makes me very proud, and this victory today is the third great triumph for me in Roland Garros.
When I was a kid, I would come here with my parents, and I had a great emotion when I won the singles junior. Then my first big final with the pros was mixed double, but we lost. And then I won with Caroline in 2016.
And today it’s very special, because you see how close we are. She’s a childhood friend. She’s my real friend. And once again, winning in Roland Garros for a French woman is incredible.
As I said, all Grand Slam tournaments are very special. You want as much as possible to get there. But when you’re playing at home, it gives you more adrenaline. It’s an extra pressure. You want to do well. You have a full box with your friends and family, which is very rare. They hardly ever see you playing except on TV.
So it’s a great opportunity to share these emotions. It’s something incredible and unforgettable.