Facebook Social Button Twitter Social Button Follow Us on InstagramYouTube Social Button Follow Me on Pinterest
NewsVideosLive ScoresTV ListingsTournamentsRankingsLucky Letcord PodcastMagazine

By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Friday June 11, 2021

pavs and krejcikova

Saturday's Roland-Garros women's singles final is living proof that good things come to those who wait.

Photo Source: RG

It promises to be a final for the ages—even if it is unlikely.

Saturday’s Roland-Garros women’s singles final between Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Barbora Krejcikova is one for the old-school.

Tennis Express

Krejcikova, a tried-and-true doubles star that has finally found her way on the singles court at the age of 25, is in full bloom in Paris. On Thursday she icily moved past Maria Sakkari, saving a match point to defeat the Greek in the longest women’s semi-final by games in tournament history. She may not be a household name, but she’s an example of what can happen when you enter the arena with a talented, classic, all-court game—even on tennis’ biggest clay-court stage against the worlds’ most thunderous baseliners.

Pavlyuchenkova also is an inspiration. The Russian is a woman who has persevered and pushed through obstacles over the course of a long career that at times earned her the dreaded underachiever label.

Of all the players that never cracked the Top-10, the 29-year-old owns the most wins (37) against the Top-10. A dubious distinction.

But she too has blossomed in Paris, reaching her maiden Grand Slam final on her 52nd main draw appearance at a Slam. It’s something she had to fight for, after reaching six quarterfinals at the major and losing them all.

“It's been a long road,” Pavlyuchenkova said on Thursday after defeating Tamara Zidansek in the semis. “It's been a lot of ups and downs. It's been a tough one.

“I definitely didn't expect this year being in the final. I guess you can't expect those things. I was just there working hard, doing everything possible. I just said to myself, You know what, this year let's do whatever it takes, anything you can do to improve your game, your mentality. Started working with a sports psychologist, everything. Just I wanted to give it a try so I have no regrets after.”

The Spirit of Jana Novotna Looms Large

Both Pavlyuchenkova and Krejcikova are Cinderella stories in Paris, and those that know their stories are drawn to them because of their character and their and their resilience, but only Krejcikova has a secret weapon guiding her.

The Czech formed a connection with Czech legend Jana Novotna, who coached her from 2014 to 2017. Though the 1998 Wimbledon champion passed away from a battle with cancer in November of 2017, Krejcikova always keeps her near and dear to hear heart.

“I always think about her,” Krejcikova said after her quarterfinal win over Coco Gauff. “Every time I go on court, I step out of the court, I always think about her. I'm always wondering what she would tell me after such a run, all this winning matches and everything. I'm just really sad I cannot actually hear her and she cannot really say anything.

I get a lot of support from her family and from her friends, everybody that was around her. For me, because I know they knew her really well, so I think they can actually give me the words that she would say, so it's really helpful."

It has been special to watch Krejcikova blossom in the years after Novotna’s passing. It adds a heavenly element to her aura. Fans that have been around the game long enough to know Novotna's story, take pleasure in seening her find her game on the singles court.

It has taken time.

First Krejcikova became a doubles champion, winning two Slams with Katerina Siniakova in 2018 and reaching No.1. Now after years of seasoning and building confidence, she is excelling in singles. And with each victory, she connects Novotna, author of one of the most emotional Wimbledon victories of all-time, to fans and players, both those who knew of her, and those who didn’t.

Who has the edge in the final?

Pavlyuchenkova and Krejcikova have never met, so it’s a tough call. One can safely say that the Russian has played cleaner tennis in Paris, as has been demonstrated by her statistics. Pavlyuchenkova has 174 winners against 140 errors for the tournament, while Krejcikova has 148 errors against 186 winners.

The Czech has been erratic at times, but also demonstrated an ability to deliver her best tennis when it counts. She saved five set points in the first set of her quarterfinal against Coco Gauff before winning in straights, then rescued a match point at 3-5 in the final set against Sakkari in the semifinals, before coming through 9-7 in the third.

Krejcikova had great second serve numbers in her win over Sakkari, winning 57 percent of points in which she missed the first serve, so that could be a key on Saturday.

Pavlyuchenkova has done a great job returning in her first six matches. She has broken 35 times in 70 service games. She’s dynamite returning against the second serve—this is where her potential advantage lies.

Krejcikova’s backhand has looked good at times during the tournament, but her 40 winners against 89 unforced errors off that wing present a clear opportunity for Pavlyuchenkova to exploit.

What’s at Stake?

For the sixth consecutive year, the Roland-Garros women’s singles winner will claim her maiden major title. Krejcikova, if she wins, can become the first player to win the women’s singles title in Paris after saving a match point in the tournament since Justine Henin in 2005.

Pavlychenkova would also break the record for the most main draws played at a major before winning a first Grand Slam title. That record is currently held by Flavia Pennetta, who won the US Open title in 2015 in her 49th appearance at a Slam.

Krejcikova would also be the first Czech to win in Paris in 40 years—since Hana Mandlikova in 1981—while Pavlychenkova would be the first Russian to hoist major hardware since Maria Sharapova, at Roland Garros in 2014.


Latest News