Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova She needed more attempts to reach the Grand Slam final than any other woman in the Open Era.
Barbora Krijcikova She had to pass the longest women’s semi-final match in French Open history.
Two of the most unexpected finalists in recent memory, Pavlyuchenkova and Krezhikova will now battle it out on Saturday in the 2021 French Open final, as they each look to win their first singles title.
The two names may come as a surprise to those who haven’t seen the tournament in Paris, but for Pavlyuchenkova and Krejcikova, it’s something they’ve long known they can do and the end result of years of hard work and perseverance between at times less than stellar results.
“I was fourteen years old and she says to me: “Pavlyuchenkova said Thursday.
For a while, Pavlyuchenkova’s place in the Grand Final seemed almost certain. She was the highest rated player in the world as a junior and won three Girls’ Grand Slam titles. She got a wild card in the main draw at Wimbledon when she was 15 years old.
It didn’t take long for her to translate her game on a professional level. Pavlyuchenkova reached the third round at Wimbledon in 2008, in only her second main draw, with more wins. Alize Cornet And the Li Na. She reached the semi-finals at Indian Wells when she was 17 years old in 2009 and was defeated Jelena Jankovic and Agnieszka Radwańska, both top 10 players, along the way. She was confident she could replicate her success at the junior level as a pro when asked about it after her victory over Jankovi?
“I finished first and won a lot of championships, and I said I wish I could [at this level]She said then. “I still think about it, so I still believe in it and work for it.”
She won her first WTA title in Monterrey in 2010 and made her first quarterfinal at the French Open in 2011. Her ranking rose to number 13 in her career.
But ability and expectations do not always correspond to reality.
Pavlyuchenkova has won 12 Tour titles, most recently in Strasbourg in 2018, all at the WTA 250 and 500 levels. She has reached the quarter-finals in a major six times but hasn’t progressed any further. She said her teenage confidence started waning and she wondered if she could compete among the elite players in the WTA.
“I had a lot of doubts because, let’s say I can win a lot – not a lot, but the top 10 and get to the quarter-finals of a major tournament,” Pavlyuchenkova said on Thursday. “I was very close to the semi-finals twice, but then it didn’t happen. It was an ups and downs in terms of results. But I feel like I’m there, I can beat those guys, but the consistency is off, something is always off.
“It was hard to deal with. I’m like, ‘Okay, I feel like I’m here,’ and then no. Then again I’m here, and then something. It wasn’t those little puzzles coming together every time. Expectations too, which I haven’t been able to handle over the years.”
It seems that all the pieces of the puzzle have come together in Paris.
Buoyed by a semi-final tour in Madrid, and having recently started working with a sports psychologist, Pavlyuchenkova was not upset on the court. She defeated the number 3 ranked Arina Sabalenka 6-4, 2-6, 6-0 in the third round and followed it up with a three-set win over the main champ twice Victoria Azarenka.
During Thursday’s semi-final, Pavlyuchenkova needed just over an hour and a half to snag a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Tamara Zidansek. She became the first Russian woman to reach a major final since then Maria Sharapova in 2015.
When it was over, she showed no outward signs of celebration. No “Come!” Scream. Don’t jump up and down. Not even a hint of a smile. But she said that was no indication of how she felt inside; It was simply what I felt in this moment.
“It’s been a long way,” said Pavlyuchenkova. “There was a lot of ups and downs. It was tough. I definitely wasn’t expecting this year to be in the final. I guess you don’t expect these things. I was just there working hard, doing everything possible.”
“I just said to myself, ‘You know, this year let’s do whatever it takes, anything you can do to improve your game, your mentality. “I started working with a sports psychologist, everything. I just wanted to give it a try so I wouldn’t have any regrets afterwards. That’s it.”
Krijikova’s reaction after winning her match against Maria Scary Thursday was noticeably more lively. After a dramatic and intense battle that lasted 3 hours and 18 minutes, she threw her arms wide over her head and her mouth opened in astonishment. After losing 3-5 in the third set, she held the match point and came back to win 7-5, 4-6, 9-7.
“I always wanted to play a match like this,” 25-year-old Krijikova said on the court after the match. “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’d be very proud of myself because I was just fighting. I think that’s the most important thing, just to fight. Every time – here but also in normal life. Fighting, that’s the most important thing.”
Krejcikova, from the Czech Republic, has been fighting all her career. While many have described Krejcikova as a doubles specialist because of her success with the partner Katerina SenyakovaShe has been working hard to prove that she can get the same results in singles.
Unlike Pavlyuchenkova, Krejcikova did not always have great aspirations for her time in sports. She enjoyed playing tennis but said it never occurred to her that she could play professionally until she was 16 or 17 and succeed at the junior level. She finished third in the junior category and won girls’ doubles titles at the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.
Her prowess continued in doubles once she became a professional. She and Synyakova reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros in 2016, and two years later, the duo won the French Open and Wimbledon doubles titles. By the end of 2018, they were the best ranked doubles players in the world.
But Krejcikova struggled in the singles, and her ranking outside the top 100 meant she was unable to automatically enter the Grand Slams. She failed the playoffs in her first 11 attempts and still hasn’t played singles at Wimbledon or the US Open. She did not participate in the main draw until the 2018 French Open. She lost in the first round.
Krejcikova didn’t score her first major victory until the 2020 Australian Open, which helped her reach 115th place before the season was suspended in March due to the pandemic. In fact, due to the virus and the absence of many players, she was able to enter the main draw for Roland Garros last October even though she did not top the top 100 list. She made it to the fourth round – and that win moved her up to the 85th which was at the time a career. She finished the year with a semi-final tour in Linz.
It’s been an upward trajectory ever since. Krizhikova reached the final in Dubai in March and won her first WTA singles title in Strasbourg last month. It reached Paris at number 33, and is now expected to be outside of the 20th place. She admitted that it was a long journey to get to this point.
“It took a long time,” Krizhikova said. “It’s taken me a while, but I think now is actually the right moment. I think I’m especially mentally, I think I’m just there. I’ve really matured.
“I really appreciate things a lot, especially after what I’ve been through, and also with this pandemic and everything. I don’t really know what to think. I’m full of emotions right now.”
Krejcikova and Pavlyuchenkova did not play against each other in singles, but they met twice in doubles where Krejcikova won both matches.
Krizhikova said she didn’t start thinking about how to handle Pavlyuchenkova’s powerful attacking style or how she could dictate her pace, as she did in many of her matches. She said she was only thinking about Friday’s doubles semi-finals and was hoping to make two Grand Slam finals at the same tournament.
Regardless of the outcome on Saturday, Krezhikova insisted she would make the most of the experience and do what she always did.
“I think it’s going to be very fun,” she said. “I’m really going to enjoy it because I never really expected to be that much during this tournament. I’m just going to have fun and I’m going to have fun and fight to the end.”