Ashleigh Barty wins French Open for first Grand Slam title, after cricketing

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Ashleigh Barty was ranked No. 623 at this time three years ago. She’ll be No. 2 on Monday after winning the French Open, her maiden Grand Slam singles title.

Barty capped a return from a 21-month leave from the sport by overwhelming fellow Grand Slam final debutante Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 6-3.

“It’s mind-boggling,” Barty told Mary Carillo on NBC. “I’ve enjoyed every single minute. And today was the perfect tennis match.”

Barty will be the highest-ranked Australian since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in December 1976. She joined Sam Stosur as the only Aussie women to win a Grand Slam singles title in the last 40 years.

Barty, the eight seed, caught a break in not having to play anyone seeded higher than 14th the last two weeks.

“I just told myself I may never get this opportunity again, so try and grab it with both hands,” she said.

Barty is having the best season of a two-staged career, making her first Slam quarterfinal at January’s Australian Open and notching her biggest title at the Miami Open in March.

The 5-foot-5 firecracker from Queensland beat a handful of top-10 players between January and March, including then-No. 1 Simona Halep, plus Kiki Bertens, Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova in Miami.

She fulfilled promise shown as the 2011 Wimbledon junior champion at age 15. But she burned out from the sport by 2014, having never made it past the second round of a Slam. Barty, wanting “normal teenage experiences,” turned to cricket despite having no competitive experience in the sport. She played for a pair of Queensland clubs in domestic leagues in 2015.

Barty announced a return to tennis in February 2016.

“I’ll be able to do it my way a little bit more,” she said then, according to the WTA. “If it works, great. If it doesn’t, I can’t really complain. I’ve had a phenomenal career for the short time that I did play. I’m just prepared to work up that slow grind up the ITFs and hopefully be up with the WTA soon.”

Barty played her first ITF-level event with the ranking 9,999. She made the top 100 within a year and finished 2017 at No. 17.

The Czech Vondrousova was the first teen in a Slam final since Caroline Wozniacki. She, too, is on a rankings rise, from No. 422 in January 2017 to No. 16 on Monday. She didn’t drop a set in Paris until a Saturday she might not soon forget.

“You gave me a lesson today,” Vondrousova told Barty.

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