Barbora Krejcikova fulfills Jana Novotna's dream after winning 2021 French Open

Barbora Krejcikova managed to overcome the odds and win the French Open 2021 title with a tough three-set win against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Barbora Krejcikova was mentored by Jana Novotna and she dedicated the French Open title to her. (Image credit: Twitter)

In women’s tennis, no one knows the heartbreak of losing a Grand Slam final after leading for most of the match. It happened not once but twice. The image of Jana Novotna crying on the Duchess of Kent’s shoulders after losing to Steffi Graf in the 1993 Wimbledon final was a tear-jerker. Novotna would have to face more heartbreak in 1997 when she lost in the final to 17-year-old Martina Hingis. The pain of two finals was finally overcome in 1998 when Novotna beat Nathalie Tauziat in Wimbledon to finally win Wimbledon.

Novotna died of cancer in 2017. After her win in Wimbledon, she became the modern icon for Czech Tennis. One of the players who considered her as a mentor was Barbora Krejcikova. The sole advice that Novotna gave to Krejcikova was, “Just enjoy and try to win a Grand Slam.” Four years after Novotna’s death and 23 years since she won Wimbledon, the dream was fulfilled. Barbora Krejcikova defeated Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 in the final to become the new French Open champion.

When Pavlyuchenkova’s backhand went wide, Barbora Krejcikova had finally achieved her dream. That too in just her fifth Grand Slam appearance. The French Open continued to be the lucky tournament for first-time winners. This was the sixth new women’s champion that they had crowned in Roland Garros.

Barbora Krejcikova’s journey to her Roland Garros dream

Krejcikova did not just win the singles title in Roland Garros. She is on the cusp of the double title. For a long time, Krejcikova was the number one ranked doubles player. She had already won six titles, with wins in the 2018 French and Wimbledon tournament. For three years, Krejcikova was the Queen of Melbourne having won a hat-trick of doubles titles.

All her doubles success did not necessarily translate into singles victories. When she started the year 2021, she was ranked No.65. However, it was in Dubai that her fortunes changed. Krejcikova beat two Grand Slam champions, Jelena Ostapenko and Svetlana Kuznetsova as well as the 16th seed Maria Sakkari. This pushed her ranking to No.38. In the final, she lost to Garbine Muguruza. In a controversial moment of the match, Krejcikova took a 11-minute toilet break that did not go down well with her opponent.

Krejcikova’s first maiden WTA title came in Strasbourg and she was all set for the French Open.

Barbora Krejcikova’s mental strength shines through

Krejcikova had a good run in the French Open, winning all her gams until the quarterfinal in straight sets. However, it was in the semi-final and final where she showed her mental strength. Sakkari had already dumped defending champion Iga Swiatek in the quarterfinal. In a titanic tussle, Krejcikova won the first set 7-5 but lost the second 4-6. Krejcikova was down a match point but it took all her will and strength to bounce back.

Sakkari buckled under the pressure and squandered the advantage. Krejcikova reached the final for the first time in singles. In the final, she did not have many things working to her advantage.

Krejcikova conceded five double faults whereas Pavlyuchenkova conceded only one. But, it was her ability to nail the second serve that got her the advantage. The match was fought on an even keel, but Krejcikova’s mental strength gave her a tremendous advantage and she won the match in grand style.

Krejcikova’s good future

“All of this that just happened, these two weeks, is pretty much because she is just looking after me from up there. It was amazing that I had a chance to meet her and that she was such an inspiration for me. I just really miss her. But I hope she’s happy right now. I’m extremely happy,” Krejcikova said in her tribute to Novotna after the title.

The 25-year-old will now attempt to become the first woman since Mary Pierce 21 years ago at the 2000 French Open to win both singles and doubles titles in the same edition of the tournament.

In a way, Krejcikova the pupil has outshone Novotna the mentor. Novotna had to ensure two heartbreaking losses in the final of Wimbledon before winning it the third time. In just her fifth appearance in singles, Krejcikova has won a Grand Slam. Tougher tests await Krejcikova in the Wimbledon grass and on the hard courts of Australia and New York. But, the win in Roland Garros has ushered in a new chapter for women’s tennis.

With Serena Williams potentially on her last legs, the women’s section is now more open than ever. The likes of Iga Swiatek and Krejcikova are the next generation of talent that will take women’s tennis forward.

Sportslumo Desk

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