Set The Bar High

Taken from The Art of Tennis II: An Exploration of Planet Tennis

The Art of Tennis Book 2019
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Markéta Vondroušová in her stellar Grand Slam breakthrough, demolishes Anastasia Sevastova on Court Suzanne Lenglen [French Open 2019] to the point of sending her to another court, even another planet.

Vondroušová wins so comprehensively, it’s hard to believe her age, that she hasn’t done this before, and that she isn’t at (or very near) the top of the game already. It’s a mature performance, and if the young Czech had not already caught people’s eyes, then surely this was the one to do that. Her name has appeared more and more this year and, rather than waiting to clock up a few more years, Vondroušová has jumped through the open doorway and said ‘why not now?’ with her tennis.

No one woman is seizing the game by the scruff of its neck, though Osaka at world number one and with two first Slams pocketed back-to-back is as close as anyone has come in that regard. To what extent she is there to stay will become evident in the coming months and years, as the pressure to sustain wins and hold form becomes harder.

Others remaining in the draw – going into the quarter-final stage – might beware, as the young Czech looks an authentic threat. With nothing to fear, her status resembles that of Ostapenko two years back. Playing higher-ranked players will certainly be the true measuring stick of where Vondroušová is, but the way she grows with every match makes her one of those few players who it’s hard to get enough of. Surely she is a player to love and follow to the ends of the earth? Another comparison with the Ostapenko of 2017 is that this late teenager seems to have no anxiety and looks like she enjoys the thrill of destroying others on court, an act that surely becomes addictive the more one tastes its salty goodness.

Vondroušová can reach almost everything. She has demolished the will of her rival today and looks like she moves around the court like a female Tsitsipas, or even Federer, not that such comparisons are reasonable… but everybody always seems to want them), Her court coverage and angles remind me of Djokovic. Young female players like this are worthy of our full attention as much as any male, and the fact that the stands were part empty for this one-hour lesson dished out by a mere teenager to a seasoned pro, is a disgrace. Tennis continues to grow as a sport, yet it feels like it’s reaching the wrong people.

Tennis is, too often, an elite sport; a creation of the wealthy masses that still veers clear of poorer folks who might love to play and watch the sport. It would be a shame if they didn’t get the chance to sit in front of young players like Vondroušová at some point in her career, or even to become the next one like her. Open your gates, make it more than a dream, fill the seats like other events do.

Vondroušová had already won around 20 matches this season before heading into Paris. That generally symbolises deep runs and great form, pushing a player ever higher up the rankings. It also depicts confidence, form, and ability – it’s hard to fluke consistency. Well, it’s nigh on impossible. She looks very, very good at this French Open, and while she hasn’t played a top tenner yet, these are indeed significant strides. Vondroušová is like a kid with an etch-a-sketch who has suddenly and surprisingly created something of beauty, making people take note. A work of art often comes from her racket these days. It looks effortless, as she floats and slides, and explores the different shots. With her tennis, she blows minds and all expectations out of the water, and into the stratosphere – another player we can expect to see a great deal more from over the coming months and years.