Roland Garros has had his share of surprise results and finals in decades, and next Saturday’s women’s final is likely to be one of the most surprising matches of the tournament. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Barbora Krejcikova enjoyed the rides of Cinderella to get to this point, but only one of them would watch the fairy tale come true and leave Roland Garros women’s singles champion Paris.
Pavlyuchenkova is perhaps the most popular name for tennis fans. She showed quite a bit of promise a decade ago, rising to number 13 In the world. She has a great base game, capable of taking damage from both flanks and on return, but she has an underrated transition game that saw her do well in the double in Paris as well. It’s a game that has earned her twelve singles titles, and if she shoots all cylinders you can see her secure her first singles crown.
Krejcikova is a relative newcomer to singles success, earning her first singles title in Strasbourg before coming to Paris. She is currently ranked high on the number 33 In the world, as she runs here, you will see that she climbs more in the ranks. She has exceptional touch and feel on the net and an enviable ability to open the field in corners, skills that truly made her a top-tier doubles player. With her increasing baseline consistency and willingness to mix it up and give opponents a different look, she’s had her own success in the French capital, and if she can use all the tools in her bag for another match, she can be. The one who leaves with a beautiful piece of shiny hardware.
As any professional athlete can attest, the sport isn’t just about the physical execution of the X and O. The mental component plays a huge role, and in Saturday’s final, it can be a bigger factor than most.
Neither woman at this point has been a slam, so there are the usual question marks that come with trying to predict how a player will react to the occasion. When they look across the grid at each other, they won’t see a former main single hero, a former figure 1, or even a former member of the top 10 standing in their way. And while they might logically understand that this increases the odds of them crossing the finish line rather than facing someone like Serena Williams, it takes away the freedom of swing that comes with being clearly vulnerable. Moreover, while both players deserve nothing but the utmost respect for what they have achieved over the past two weeks, there is a feeling that realistically this could be their right looking only at a slam singles title.
As for who’s more mentally prepared at the moment, that’s anyone’s guess. Pavlyuchenkova has spoken of not being mentally prepared for the moment early in her career, but with age comes wisdom and experience, suggesting she may be ready now. However, Krejcikova has the experience of winning two major doubles titles, an experience that could prove beneficial. She also proved remarkably resilient following the controversy over what should have been her match point in her semi-final match against Maria Scari. But after the roller coaster ride, are you emotionally drained or is there still something in the tank?
When all is said and done, none of these women can be counted as winning the title. Both have shown time and time again over the past two weeks that they are up to the challenge of overcoming adversity. Both are also inspirational stories. Pavlyuchenkova has proven that patience and perseverance can pay off in the long run, as good things come to those who wait. Krejcikova also proved to be a success lately in the singles but with that, showing that the leap from doubles to singles can still be made. As the fresher of the two knockouts from the less taxed semi-finals, the edge should go to Pavlyuchenkova, but the only statement that can be confirmed is that Roland Garros will be crowned the first major singles champion on Saturday.