The ball hung high in the sky for what felt like an eternity, offering Barbora Krezhikova all the time in the world to think about how bad things could turn out. However, despite committing 29 involuntary backhand faults on Thursday afternoon, one point away from losing the biggest singles game of her career when she was leading 3-5, 30-40 in the third set, she refused. Krejcikova leaped forward and fired a jittery backhand out of the air to save match point with an angled win.
Forty-five minutes later, after three hours and 17 minutes of tension, doubt and massive fighting, unseeded Krijsikova finally recovered to defeat 17th seed Maria Scarry, 7-5, 4-6, 9-7 to reach the Grand Slam. Singles final for the first time.
“I always wanted to play a match like this,” Krizhikova said. Every time when I was younger [and] I was playing for the juniors, I always wanted to play a game like this. Such a tough match, where we both got chances, and we were playing really well. Only one can win.”
“Even if I lost today, I would be very proud of myself because I was just fighting. I think that is the most important thing, just the fight. Every time – here but also in normal life. Fighting, that is the most important thing.”
In the final, she will face 31st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who handled the moment with calm and maturity once again, defeating Slovenian Tamara Zidansek 7-5, 6-3.
In her 52nd major, the 29-year-old became the first woman to play more than 50 slam titles before competing in her first final.
From the very first match of the day, what happened has been a tennis psychological drama in its purest form. Sakkari and Krejcikova entered their first major semi-final with their first on-line final. Each of them is too desperate to seize the moment.
But desperation is often a drag in professional tennis and I initially took them both incidentally across two choppy, tight sets that saw ups and downs advancing quickly until both settled into the final shootout.
Scary had bent herself to the third group through the sheer force of her desire. She barked at herself after winning and losing, aiming for the Czech’s relentlessly faltering backhand, and her footwork was furious even when her hits were faulty. No Greek woman has reached the singles final of a slam.
However, even though she led a break for most of the third set, Scary never seemed comfortable. She built her lead primarily on Krejcikova’s backhand errors; When the Czech leveled up and they finally stopped, she was stuck: 5-3 quickly became 5-6.
With defeat approaching for both of them, they noticeably started playing the best tennis of the match with everything on the line.
After Kriegsikova saved match point for Scari, Scari then made her last stand, crushing forehands as she saved three match points by herself.
In the end, it was Scary who blinked his eye first. I missed 7-8, 30-30. In the Czech’s fourth match, a forehand was called for Skari and Krijkova celebrated her victory.
But it was overruled, even when Krizhikova argued her case to no avail. Then Scary softly hit a backhand on the field to frustrate the match point. This could have been the moment the match turned, but Krejcikova had enough to get back to baseline, generate another opportunity and finally capitalize on it.
Next, Krejsikova, the former No. 1 doubles player who finally got her talent in the fifth main draw of her Grand Slam singles career, thanked her team.
Then she looked up at the sky and dedicated some gratitude to her former mentor and coach, the late Jana Novotna: “She really takes care of me and I really miss her. I really want to thank her for also being the reason I’m here. It’s really important that I say this out loud.”
Later, Scary was honest and open through her grief and tried to leave on a positive note: “I have to be very honest,” she said. “I got nervous, and I started thinking I was one point away from getting to the final. I think it’s a junior mistake.
“The good thing is that if I give myself a chance again to be in this situation, I know I don’t have to do it again.”