PARIS – Ashleigh Barty aims to end Australia's 46-year wait for a Roland Garros women's singles champion on Saturday when she faces Czech teenage breakout star Marketa Vondrousova.
Margaret Court was the last Australian woman to triumph in Paris in 1973 when she won her fifth and final title in the French capital after 1962, 1964, 1969 and 1970.
That was part of a golden era for Australian women with Lesley Turner (1963 and 1965) and Evonne Goolagong (1971) also triumphing at the clay court Slam.
"It would be incredible," said 23-year-old eighth seed Barty on her chances of adding her name to that storied roll of honour.
Barty, like her 19-year-old Czech opponent, is in her maiden Slam final having laid down a marker by making the quarter-finals of a major for the first time on home ground in Australia in January.
"It's an amazing opportunity for myself and my team. Like I said, we have worked so hard to put ourselves in these positions.
"Now we get to go out there and really enjoy it. That's the only way to approach it is to go out and enjoy it, have fun, try and play with freedom. That's ultimately when I play my best tennis and that's what we are after."
Barty's place in a Slam final is remarkable given that four years ago she quit tennis to play professional cricket.
When she returned to tennis, she was ranked at 623 in the world.
By reaching the final, she is already guaranteed to move to a career high of three, the highest for an Australian since Wendy Turnbull in 1985.
If she wins the title on Saturday, Barty will be number two in the rankings, the best for an Australian woman since Goolagong Cawley in 1976.
Barty came through a bizarre three-set semi-final against American 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova, who put out defending champion Simona Halep in the last-eight.
- Chatrier debut -
She led 5-0 and had set points before Anisimova roared back to take the opener and build a 3-0 lead in the second.
Barty then took the next six games to level the tie before recovering from a break down in the decider to take the tie on a sixth match point.
"It might be a bit of a blessing in disguise that we're playing day after day after day just to keep the momentum going," said Barty, the first Australian woman in a Paris final since Samantha Stosur in 2010.
Barty has defeated Vondrousova in both of their career meetings but they have never met on clay.
Vondrousova has reached the final without dropping a set, seeing off Britain's Johanna Konta 7-5, 7-6 (7/2) in her semi-final.
She is the first teenager to reach a major final in 10 years since Caroline Wozniacki at the 2009 US Open and the first at Roland Garros in 12 years.
Saturday's final will be the youngest final at a Slam since the 2008 Roland Garros championship match when 20-year-old Ana Ivanovic defeated Dinara Safina, 22.
Vondrousova is also bidding to become the first teenage Grand Slam champion since 19-year-old Maria Sharapova at the 2006 US Open.
"I think she is probably the most comfortable on the clay courts as opposed to any other surface," added Barty.
"She has so much variety in her game. She's got the ability to move the ball around the court, moves exceptionally well."
Left-hander Vondrousova will be inside the top 20 next week as a result of her run in Paris.
However, her most immediate problem is getting some experience of Court Philippe Chatrier having never set foot on the surface before.
"I want to warm up there. I have never played there. It's going to be something new. But I like those big courts," said Vondrousova who is 15-2 on clay this season.
"I watched Lucie Safarova when she played the final (in 2015) from the stands when I was junior.
"It's going to be something huge."
She has form on her side.
Since a second-round exit at the Australian Open in January, she has compiled a tour-leading 27-5 record.
That contrasts to just 14 main draw wins in the whole of 2018.
Win on Saturday and the Czech will take home a cheque for 2,300,000 euros – more than enough to build up her collection of 200 pairs of shoes.AFP