Roland Garros: Pavlyuchenkova, Krejcikova to meet in final

  • Matt Trollope

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Barbora Krejcikova will clash for their first Grand Slam title after winning their Roland Garros semifinals in contrasting fashion on Thursday.

Krejcikova recovered from 3-5 down in the third set, and saved a match point, to defeat Maria Sakkari in a dramatic 5-7 6-4 9-7 scoreline.

Earlier, Pavlyuchenkova ended the run of world No.85 Tamara Zidansek with a 7-5 6-3 win.

Pavlyuchenkova had never before been beyond a Grand Slam quarterfinal before this fortnight in Paris, while Krejcikova had only once prior reached the fourth round of a major tournament – at Roland Garros last year.

They will meet in Saturday's final for a chance to become one of the unlikeliest, yet most heartwarming, champions in women’s Grand Slam history.

Krejcikova wins thriller

Both Krejcikova and Sakkari arrived at this point of the tournament following impressive runs in Paris.

Krejcikova had beaten in succession fifth seed Elina Svitolina, major champion Sloane Stephens and rising star Coco Gauff – all in straight sets – to set a clash with Sakkari, who in her previous two matches had eliminated last year’s Roland Garros finalists Sofia Kenin and Iga Swiatek.

As a result, an incredible opportunity awaited the winner of this semifinal. And drama ensued.

Sakkari held a 3-1 lead in the opening set only to lose it, and forged ahead 5-3 in the third, earning a match point in the following game when Krejickova served to stay alive.

But Krejcikova saved that, and later had three match points of her own with Sakkari serving in the 14th game – only for the Greek to erase them all and hold for 7-7.

In an incredibly tense, taut affair at Court Philippe Chatrier, Krejcikova gained a fourth match point and celebrated when she thought Sakkari’s shot had flown long – only for the chair umpire to overrule the ball as in. Sakkari won the replayed point.

Impressively, Krejcikova re-set, earned a fifth match point, and converted it after three hours and 18 minutes on court, before honouring her late coach Jana Novotna in an emotional on-court interview.

Barbora Krejcikova sends a kiss skyward to Jana Novotna: “Like every time before the match or after the match I just feel like she's there, she's looking after me.” (Getty Images)

Having won the WTA Strasbourg title the week before Roland Garros, Krejcikova carries an 11-match winning streak into the final.

Pavyluchenkova a finalist at last

There she will meet Pavlyuchenkova, who has built an impressive clay-court record of her own in the past month.

The Madrid semifinalist has now won 10 of her past 11 matches, the latest in straight set over Slovenia’s Zidansek.

There were some tense moments for the 29-year-old Russian, who fell behind an early break in the opening set and failed to serve it out when she led 5-3. 

But she remained steady in the latter stages of that set, and when she clinched it she then pushed ahead 4-1 in the second – which proved an insurmountable lead.

Continuing a stellar fortnight during which she also beat No.3 seed Aryna Sabalenka and two-time major champion Victoria Azarenka, Pavlyuchenkova will now appear in the biggest final of her 14-year professional career.

Stat of the day

Pavlyuchenkova, playing in her 52nd career Grand Slam main draw, is the first woman in history to contest more than 50 before reaching her first major final.

Krejcikova, by contrast, is featuring in just the fifth Grand Slam main draw of her career.

Tweets of the day

Pavlyuchenkova became the first Russian woman to reach a major singles final since Maria Sharapova at Australian Open 2015, and the first at Roland Garros since Sharapova seven years prior.

And look who noticed.

Brazilian doubles champion Bruno Soares, meanwhile, echoed the thoughts of many when watching Krejcikova’s breakthrough.

Quotes of the day

“I think about it all the time. Like been thinking about it since I was a junior, since I was a little kid, since I started playing tennis. That's what you playing for. That's what you want. It's been there in my head forever.”
- Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, when asked to recall when she first imagined winning a Grand Slam title.

“I always wanted to play matches like this. I always wanted to play tournaments like this, big tournaments, big opponents, last rounds. It was just taking so long. But I think right now it's actually right moment. Especially mentally I think I'm just there. I really matured. I just really appreciate things a lot, especially after what I've gone through, also with this pandemic and everything.”
- Barbora Krejcikova

“I have to be deadly honest: I got stressed, starting thinking that I'm a point away from being in the final. I guess it's a rookie mistake. I think it's human emotions, but I think I'll learn from it.”
- Maria Sakkari

“The fact that I managed to play this well, got this far, just shows me that I can play at the big stage. I'm really happy with that, so I'm going to try to take that and just build from this, like try to even work more. I'm looking forward to the next tournaments.”
- Tamara Zidansek