It's the women's final at the French Open at Roland Garros today and our Scott Ferguson previews the action.
Women's Final - Ashleigh Barty vs Marketa Vondrousova
When I posted these two players as picks to win their respective quarters, little did I expect them to meet in the final! So now we have two players in the maiden Grand Slam tournament singles final with not a great deal to split them.
A maiden winner might sound unusual but it will be the fourth year in a row for a first major winner here.
Ashleigh Barty was a star junior, winning the Wimbledon girls' title as a 15yo, then struggled with the stresses of world travel and the expectation of stardom, unable to transfer her junior success into senior ranks, at least in singles events.
She took a break from the sport, famously playing cricket in the Women's Big Bash League in Australia, and the Richmond FC fanatic probably could have played Australian Rules in AFLW as well had cricket not beaten the football code in the race to become professional. Almost two years at home brought balance and perspective back to her life before she rejoined the WTA Tour.
And if there's ever a case study to highlight the benefits of taking a mental health break, it's this one. Rest, recovery and maturity turned everything around. Reaching the final propels her to world no.3, and victory would take the proud Queenslander one number higher, the first Australian woman to do so in 34 and 43 years respectively. The last Australian women's champion was Margaret Court back in 1973.
While Barty looked shaky in the semi-final, giving away a 5/0 lead in the first set and then an early break in the second, her resolve in the final set is enviable She has won all five third sets on clay this season, and in the two corresponding matches in Paris, conceded just three games.
Marketa Vondrousova has emerged as a genuine star this fortnight. The teenager has always been a talented prospect but she has been ruthless throughout the rounds, reaching the final without dropping a single set. Her recently retired countrywoman Lucie Safarova did that in 2015 with the last woman to achieve that through all seven rounds was Justine Henin 12 years ago. The last teenager to win here dates back to Iva Majoli in 1997.
The left-hander showed tremendous resilience to defeat Johanna Konta, trailing 3/5 in each set yet managed to outwit her opponent with deft angles and solid defence.
Both women play a disruptive style, mixing pace and slice, angles and brute force, to upset the rhythm of their opponents. That all changes when the rival isn't simply playing ball, wanting to control the play and stay in their comfort zone.
In two previous meetings, the Aussie has won all four sets, but barely. Three of those four sets have been 7/5 or 7/6, and with those meetings on grass and hardcourt, you could argue that favoured Barty while clay will suit the Czech a bit more.
After success backing each player to win their quarter, I'm torn here on which way to lean. It's also not helped by being an Australian (#BartyParty) and a left-hander (#TeamLeftie). The match prices appear accurate, I can't find an edge there.
Based on their previous history and solid form this fortnight, this one should be tight. There's always a natural tendency for fans to bet on action - goals, points, games etc., leaving bookies to cheer for boring or lopsided events. It's new territory for both players, will there be nerves? Each player had their lapses in the semis but showed great strength to close the matches out from difficult positions.
For live traders, expect a few service breaks swiftly followed by a break-back. Backing both players at odds-against when a break down will lock in a profit.
With a tight battle in mind, I'm lobbing for a tight first set, and a couple of Hail Marys from the Skybet specials list.
- Preview posted at 1000BST on 08/06/2019