By ANAND MAMIDIPUDI
Consultant and contributor to Tennis With An Accent
How hard is it to beat Marketa Vondrousova? Ask her part-time doubles partner and former World No. 16, Barbora Strycova, who has lost to her in singles four straight times.
Earlier this year, Marketa made short work of Barbara at the Miami Open, losing a total of five games. Then they played again on clay in Istanbul, and Marketa was even more stingy this time, giving up just three games. Finally, the feisty Barbora threw the kitchen sink at Marketa at the Rome Premier 5 tournament and took her to a third-set tiebreak. Barbora lost again, because the young 19-year-old left-hander on the other side of the net simply does not lose to players she learns to beat once.
In 2019, Marketa has taken out Simona Halep both times they have met. She has also knocked out the wonderfully gifted Daria Kasatkina twice. The blistering pace of Jelena Ostapenko was also no match for Marketa’s lefty wiles, ending in a couple of losses. Marketa is the sneaky bugbear nobody knows about. She’s the doubt in your mind that stops you from turning a corner. She’s the person you don’t want to lose to, because if you do, then you’re cooked for life!
At least, it certainly feels that way — take that with a grain of salt (but only one grain).
Vondrousova’s rise from relative obscurity is owed to her almost ninja-like ability to creep through draws without being noticed. She isn’t really as obscure as she is invisible. Even her opponents, many of whom have grown up bludgeoning the ball out of shape, may mistake her for a spectator on the fence before she suddenly whips out a crosscourt winner from far behind. She may well be a left-handed Macavity, the mystery cat.
Now about her match against Petra Martic:
Martic held a four-match winning streak against her. We found out that Vondrousova was simply unlocking the code to winning against Martic (this involves consistent wrong-footing, dinky topspin lobs, flat crosscourt backhands, and some black magic).
Now that she has figured out how to beat Martic, we can trust that she will never lose to her again!
At some point — whenever the weather clears in Paris — the wondrous Vondrousova will play the irrepressible Johanna Konta, who is a buzzsaw when she is on. Both ladies are playing their first Roland Garros semi. Vondrousova is not a lock to win this match because she hasn’t learned to beat Konta yet. One thing is assured though: She will be making life mightily difficult for her British opponent.
If somehow, she breaks through and finds Simona Halep across the net, you can be rest assured that Vondrousova will have a big smile on her face. She knows, and now we know, it will be Czech-mate for Halep.