The women’s championship in the French Open is witnessing the surge of the unknowns. For the sixth consecutive time, the tournament will crown a new champion. After Maria Sakkari dumped out Sofia Kenin in the fourth round and defending champion Iga Swiatek in the semifinal, it was the time of Sakkari to exit the tournament. Barbora Krejcikova put in a fine display of tennis to win 7-5, 4-6, 9-7 in an epic encounter on Thursday.
Krejcikova, 25, is the fourth unseeded women’s finalist in five years at the French Open. Both players made a nervy start to their maiden Grand Slam semi-final. Sakkari was the first to hold serve in the fourth game as she took a 3-1 lead. But Barbora Krejcikova picked up the next four, pulling 5-3 ahead with a sublime lob. Sakkari rattled off eight points in a row to level at 5-5. A routine hold from Krejcikova put the pressure back on Sakkari. The Greek hammered a forehand long before surrendering the set as her shot clipped the net and floated wide.
Krejcikova had a match point at 5-3 but the resilient Czech stayed alive with a sweeping backhand volley, and then broke back before moving 6-5 in front. She watched three match points of her own pass by at 7-6, with Sakkari saving a pair with a crunching backhand winner and an ace.
Krejcikova held again with relative comfort and brought up another match point on Sakkari’s serve. A forehand from the Greek was called long. But the chair umpire dramatically overruled the decision even as TV replays showed the ball to be out. Overcoming that wrong call, Krejcikova brought up a fifth-match point and won the match.
“I always wanted to play a match like this. Even if I lost today I would be very proud because I was fighting. That is the most important thing, in here and in our own life,” Krejcikova said in the post-match press conference.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova held off Tamara Zidansek 7-5, 6-3 in the Roland Garros semifinal, becoming the first woman to play more than 50 majors before reaching her first final. She made her Grand Slam debut as a 15-year-old wildcard at 2007 Wimbledon but lost to Daniela Hantuchova in the opening round. This tournament marks her 52nd Grand Slam main draw. With many top seeds suffering shock defeats and some pulling out of the tournament owing to injuries, this could be the perfect opportunity for Pavlyuchenkova to win her maiden Grand Slam title.
“I had my own long special road,” Pavlyuchenkova said in her post-match press conference. “Everybody has different ways. I don’t know, I’m just happy to be in the final. Trying to enjoy. I think about [winning a Grand Slam tournament] all the time. Been thinking about it since I was a junior, since I was a little kid, since I started playing tennis. That’s what you’re playing for. That’s what you want. It’s been there in my head forever.”
Pavlyuchenkova also ends a six-year drought for Russia in reaching a Grand Slam final. The last player to do so was Maria Sharapova, who reached the 2015 Australian Open. On Saturday, she will be seeking her first title since Strasbourg 2018.