Czech Barbora Krejsikova showed incredible spirit to beat Maria Sakkari in the semi-finals of the French Open classic and reach her first Grand Slam final.
Krizhikova, 25, won 7-5 4-6 9-7 her fifth game point — after saving one herself — in a thrilling match that lasted more than three hours.
Krejcikova thought she had won earlier in the final but had a written call that was wrongly overturned by the referee.
She will play Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, ranked 31, in the final.
“I’ve always wanted to play a match like this,” said Krijikova, ranked 33 in singles and former world number one in doubles.
“When I was younger and playing with the rookies, I always wanted to play such a tough game where we both got chances and we were playing very well – and only one can win.
“Even if I lost today I would be proud of myself because I was fighting. That is the most important thing, to fight here and in our lives.”
Pavlyuchenkova continued her late blooming French Open also reaching her first Grand Slam final, defeating Slovenian Tamara Zidansek 7-5, 6-3 on the Paris clay.
Pavlyuchenkova, 29, was a dominant young player but did not reach the Grand Slam semi-finals.
Krejcikova keeps her nerve for victory after ‘brutal’ referee error
In a wildly unpredictable match full of twists and turns, 25-year-old Krijikova finished second in most of the competition but somehow came through with what turned out to be the classic Roland Garros.
After failing to convert a match point in the ninth game of the play-off, Greek 17th seed Skari lost her nerve and failed to secure a place in the final.
This allowed Krizhikova, who had not played at her best before, to regain her composure at the crucial moments.
Most controversial in a crucial set filled with momentous moments, tension and drama was how the Czech was able to shake off the disappointment of being wrongly denied a four-point win before that.
At the age of 30-40, Skari hit a called forehand and Krizhikova—who extended her arms in the air in celebration—thought she was tall, too. But Governor Pierre Bache disagreed with that.
The Frenchman lunged onto the muddy ground and pointed to where he thought the ball hit the line.
The technology is not used on the clay to challenge calls, and testing so far has not proven accurate enough on the surface.
However, a televised replay appeared to indicate the ball was out, prompting Britain’s world number one Andy Murray to say on Twitter that Bache had made a “very, very bad mistake”.
“She’s the reason I’m here” – Krejcikova emotionally pays tribute to Novotna
Krejkova, a two-time Grand Slam doubles champion, will play in the women’s doubles semi-final on Friday alongside Czech Katerina Siniakova.
While her progress in this event is not surprising, the race to the singles final on Saturday certainly is.
After her quarter-final victory over American teen Coco Gauff, Kryjsikova insisted she did not want to be labeled a professional doubles player.
After such an unforgettable tour, that is now unlikely.
In her court interview, Krizhikova dedicated her success to her mentor Jana Novotna, the former Wimbledon champion who died in November 2017 of cancer.
She also thanked Jan Kods, French Open champion in 1970 and 1971, and 18-time Grand Prix singles winner Martina Navratilova, who was born in the Czech Republic and was watching from the stands, for their support.
“I appreciate all my heroes and thank Jana from the top floor,” Krizhikova said.
“She took care of me and I really miss her and I want to thank her. Because of her I’m here and it’s really important that I say it out loud.”
Pavlyuchenkova’s great experience helps her in this
While Pavlyuchenkova had never played at this level before, she had more experience and pedigree than rival 23-year-old Zidansek, another semi-finalist.
Pavlyuchenkova reached Grand Slam quarter-finals – including at Roland Garros in 2011 – while capturing the scalp of third-seeded Belarusian Arina Sabalenka and two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka in her run to the semi-finals.
By comparison, 85th seed Zidansek did not make it past the second stage of the tournament.
She also never won a WTA title, nor was she ranked among the top 50 players in the world, which made her progress surprising.
The Slovenian, who beat 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu in the first round, has a heavy forehand and the ability to play with variety, and is playing in an interesting semi-final match that few dared to predict with confidence.
The entertaining first set was neatly set at 5-5 after both players broke twice, as Pavlyuchenkova pressed on goal when Zdansek stuttered double fault on the first point of the Russian set.
Once Pavlyuchenkova broke for a 3-1 lead in the second set, Zidansek looked in danger of collapsing but fought back to break his serve 4-3 when Pavlyuchenkova also double-faulted at a crucial moment.
However, the Russian player poised to break again in the next match and secured her place in Saturday’s final.
Having hit a backhand in the tram on the first match point, Pavlenchenkova showed little emotion, seemingly shocked by the scale of her achievement and covered in sweat after a tough fight.
“I don’t know what to think because I am very tired but I am very happy. It is very moving,” she said in her court interview.