Czech teen holds off Petra Martic to reach first Grand Slam semifinal.

The last unseeded teenager who reached the semi-final at Roland-Garros was Jelena Ostapenko, who stormed to the title in 2017 – the very same year that a left-handed 17-year-old from the Czech Republic made her Grand Slam debut on the Paris clay.

Two years on, 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova has booked her place in the last four with a big-hitting 7-6 (1), 7-5 victory over the No.31 seed, Petra Martic, a player who led 4-0 in their previous encounters.

“[Ostapenko] did amazing things that year, and she was the same age as me,” Vondrousova said, acknowledging the Latvian’s performance was, and remains, an inspiration – and something she is now just two wins away from replicating herself. “I mean, it’s very tough to win these matches and, like, win seven matches in a row. It’s like a dream now, and I’m just very happy.”

What aspect of this quarter-final victory did she take particular satisfaction in? “I’m just so happy that I beat her at last!” said Vondrousova with delightful understatement. Happy to beat Martic? Or happy to reach the semi final? “Both!” she said, beaming.

Asked to expand on the variety and finesse she brings to the big-hitting aggressive style we associate with the Czech women’s game, she said simply, “It’s fun for me. I’m really enjoying it. I try to serve well, move well. I like drop shots.” She might have added lobs, for on Tuesday evening, she displayed a near-perfect lob radar.

En route to her semi-final meeting with Britain’s Johanna Konta, Vondrousova has maintained an extraordinary statistic: she is yet to drop a set in five rounds at Roland-Garros 2019.

In the evening quarter-final on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, it was the prospect of dropping a set for the first time that was the turning point, and seemed to galvanise her towards victory. Martic broke the Czech in the eighth game to take a 5-3 lead, but Vondrousova broke straight back and served to level the score at 5-5.

At 5-6, love-40 she defended three set points with a volleyed winner, a sublime backhand winner and an ace. It was insane, she agreed. “But I wasn’t thinking, like, I’m down three set points. I just tried to focus on my game and play it point by point. It was great.”

Getting on top

The momentum stayed with her in the tiebreak, which she took 7-1 courtesy of Martic’s errors and her own clever drop shot and lob combinations.

After 58 minutes, the standout statistic from the first set was that the young Czech had converted 66% of break points compared to Martic’s meagre 28%.

Vondrousova, who describes herself as quiet and calm, raced to a 3-0 lead in the second set. After four games, Martic had won only six points.

A nasty fall as she rushed to the net knocked the wind out of Vondrousova’s sails. Once recovered, a further series of textbook drop shots and lobs moved the score to 5-2.

Martic, serving to stay in the match, shanked a ball to bring up match point, but saved it with a big serve. Match point No.2 came and went with a double fault. The young Czech tightened up. The score levelled to 5-5. Vondrousova won her serve, and put the onus on Martic to serve to stay in the match.

Finally, after her fifth match point, Vondrousova fell to her knees in victory.

So, the exuberantly in-form Konta is next. They stand 1-1 in recent meetings. “She has great form and it’s going to be tough match, but we’ll see,” the Czech said.

“In the semifinals I think anything can happen. I think it’s going to be very tough and a great match. I just can’t wait to play.”

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