PARIS: Barbora Krejcikova became the unseeded Grand Slam champion at the French Open, thinking about her late coach all the time.
Leaving a shaky set behind, Krejcikova won her fifth major tournament as a singles player by defeating 31st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 in the final at Roland Garros on Saturday.
When it ended with Pavlyuchenkova landing a backhand on fourth match point for the 25-year-old Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, they met over the net for a hug.
Then Krejcikova blew the kiss to the sky, her eyes squeezed shut, in a tribute to her former coach, Jana Novotna, the 1998 Wimbledon champion who died of cancer in 2017.
“She was such an inspiration to me. I really miss her,” Krejcikova said. “I hope she is happy now.”
She is the third unseeded women’s champion at Roland Garros in the last five years.
Krejcikova will now seek to become the first woman since Marie Pierce in 2000 to win the French Open singles and doubles titles in the same year. Krejcikova and her partner Katerina Siniakova already have two Grand Slam doubles titles and are set to play in Sunday’s final.
31st seed Pavlyuchenkova was playing her first Grand Slam final in the 52nd major tournament of her career.
He was treated for an injury to his left leg in the second set late Saturday night.
He is the first Grand Slam champion for the sixth consecutive time to take the trophy at Roland Garros, where red clay can reduce the effectiveness of the fast work and sometimes the awkward bounce on the surface that can frustrate players and special footwork. can demand.
Saturday’s match between two first-time Grand Slam finalists was perhaps a fitting conclusion to two weeks of surprises.
Naomi Osaka, four-time major champion, No. 2, withdrew after a match – and clashes with Grand Slam officials over a rule that mandates talking to the media – to take a mental health break. 1-ranked Ash Barty, the 2019 champion, retired from his second round match with a left hip injury. 3 Simona Halep, the 2018 champion, never showed up due to an injured calf. Serena Williams had to face defeat in the fourth round. Defending champion Inga Swietec lost in the quarterfinals.
Krejcikova spoke candidly about her feelings of tension and nervousness before facing 2017 US Open champion and 2018 French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens in the fourth round of the tournament.
Krejcikova said she worried she wouldn’t win a game and was in tears, not even wanting to play the match, before her sports psychologist spoke to her.
Good thing too, as Krejcikova beat Stephens 6-2, 6-0. Krejcikova saved a match point in the semi-finals and defeated No. 17 Maria Sakkari 9-7 in the third set.
There were some setbacks in the opening game on Saturday: Krejcikova double faulted and broke.
but she quickly got out of it
Krejcikova excelled with her crisp two-handed backhand, making good use of pure skill in doubles and particularly defensive lobes. One curled up on Pavlyuchenkova and landed in a corner for a winner that helped Krejcikova break 1-1 and start a six-game run that gave her the first set. Another was thrown into the net on an overhead effort by a backpedaling Pavlyuchenkova.
But Pavlyuchenkova played again and went 5-1 in the second set. But then she pulled for a backhand, won and leaned on her racket, reaching for her upper left leg.
On the ensuing change, he took a medical timeout. A trainer treated and taped the leg while Pavlyuchenkova lay face down on a towel, a bag of candy within reach.
Immediately, Pavlyuchenkova claimed that set. While Krejcikova made the long trip to the locker room before third, Pavlyuchenkova stood on the sidelines imitating a serving motion to practice landing on her left foot.
Krejcikova remained ahead in third. She went 2-1 ahead during Pavlyuchenkova’s double fault. After breaking right behind Pavlyuchenkova, capping off with a big forehand winner she celebrated with a shriek, Krejcikova again gained the upper hand by breaking love with a forehand winner that made it 4-3.
Pavlyuchenkova saved two match points while serving 5-3, and in the next game Krejcikova lost another match by double fault.
But she won it on the following occasion and was soon kissing Coupe Suzanne Lenglen and gently rocking the trophy during the Czech national anthem.
AP Tennis writer Howard Fendrich in Washington contributed to this report.
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