La Vainqueur: Krejcikova Is A Solo Champion

Barbora Krejcikova (photo: @WTA_Strasbourg/Twitter)

STRASBOURG/WASHINGTON, May 29, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

On the eve of Roland Garros, a significant battle on the terre battue of Strasbourg in northeastern France took place, where 61st-ranked Sorana Cirstea and No. 38 Barbora Krejcikova fought for the singles title of the WTA 250-series Internationaux de Strasbourg Saturday afternoon. While the 31-year-old Cirstea from Bucharest, Romania previously had enjoyed the thrill of winning a WTA title victory twice – albeit 13 years apart – it’s something Krejcikova, an accomplished former World No. 1 doubles champion with five Grand Slam crowns (two in doubles and three in mixed doubles) and eight WTA doubles titles overall, had never experienced while playing singles. Until now.

The 25-year-old native of Brno, Czech Republic, sputtered at times in her 68th career WTA singles match – as her 10 double faults will attest. Yet, when it counted most, Krejcikova had a clear vision of the finish line if, at times, she couldn’t always see it clearly.

Krejcikova won her first WTA tour-level singles title in her third try with a satisfying 6-3, 6-3 over Cirstea, and it arguably was the most appreciative – it not emotional – one hour and 39 minutes of the Czech star’s tennis-playing life. The victory improved her 2021 singles win-loss record to 18-8.

Strasbourg has enjoyed a rich history of Czech champions, and Krejcikova has become a part of it by winning this year’s title. First, there was Krejcikova’s late mentor, Jana Novotna, in 1989 and more recently Nicole Vaidisova in 2006. Now, there’s Krejcikova.

“There’s been a lot of emotions on the court,” Krejcikova told Tennis TourTalk during her virtual press conference soon after the trophy ceremony. “I have so many things on my mind right now. It’s really hard to put it in sentences.

“It was really a big moment for me. This was the third final I had played in my career. I always wanted to win a WTA tournament. I felt like if I want to win one so much, I’m not going to win. If it’s not going to happen today, it’s going to happen in the future. So, just go out there and enjoy it as much as you can.”

An enthusiastic crowd at the Tennis Club de Strasbourg gave both players a warm welcome as they strolled onto Patrice-Dominguez Court on a clear, 21-degree Celsius afternoon. Once the final began, Krejcikova jumped out to a hard-fought 4-0, double-break lead after breaking Cirstea twice in the Romanian’s first two service games and consolidating each one.

Krejcikova crafted many of her winning points (she would finish with 76 in all, 13 more than Cirstea) throughout the set and during the match by targeting and hitting angled, slice returns. Although the Czech endured a minor hiccup while ahead 5-2, as she was broken in the eighth game after having some minor discomfort with her contact lenses. Krejcikova managed the situation as best as she could under the rules. Eventually, she broke Cirstea with a forehand winner to put away the 53-minute opening set 6-3.

While Krejcikova was able to address her contact lens problem following the completion of the first set, she began having trouble with putting her serves in play, quickly piling up six double faults. Also, there were four breaks of serve in the first five games of the second set, two by each player.

Later on, once things settled down, Krejcikova broke Cirstea for the sixth and final time in her 13th opportunity overall, to lead 4-2. It was just a matter of time and a few games before she would become the eighth first-time champion on the WTA circuit this year. While Krejcikova kept her unforced errors to a manageable level, hitting 27, it was Cirstea, who had been solid and steady earlier in her run to the final, who began to become unraveled. She racked up many miscues, hitting a total of 44 unforced errors by the end of the final.

Soon, on her first match point opportunity, Krejcikova put a fitting coda on the triumph by hitting her 22nd winner for game, set, match and championship. Then, the thrill of victory began to take hold. Krejcikova raised her arms in celebration, something that eluded her in Nürnberg in 2017 and earlier this year in Dubai. Then, with a big smile on her face, she waved to the applauding crowd with her left hand, and soon raced over to hug her coach, Ales Kartus, before returning to get ready for the trophy fete in recognition of her first singles title.

“I think today my opponent played much better than me,” Cirstea told for Tennis TourTalk during her virtual interview. “[Barbora] deserved to win. It was a good week for me except for today. I started very slow and kept trying to catch up to her score-wise. She really played without any mistakes.

“There are days when your opponent is much better and you take your hat off and say ‘Well done.'”

When Krejcikova was asked to describe what the feeling of being able to win her first WTA singles title with fans in attendance to cheer her performance – and for her to be able feed off of their energy – she called it something really special.

“When I hit the final forehand [winner] down the line – and everybody started to clap – it was such a special moment, such an emotional moment,” she said. “To see the crowd applaud me was very special. I was really happy.”

During her virtual interview, when she could finally relax just a bit and reflect upon what she had just accomplished, Krejcikova summed up her feelings in a couple of simple and heartfelt thoughts – and with a big smile: “I’m just really proud of myself and happy I had such an amazing week. I feel tired right now, but I’m going to be alright.”

Guarachi/Krawczyk win second title this year

Alexa Guarachi of Chile and Desirae Krawczyk of the United States won their second WTA doubles title of the year and fourth together overall by capturing the Internationaux de Strasbourg crown Saturday. The Chilean/American duo defeated Makoto Ninomiya of Japan and Yang Zhaoxuan of China, 6-2, 6-3 in 70 minutes. They converted five of seven break points against the Japanese/Chinese pair and outpointed them 53-40.

In going 4-0 this week, Guarachi (ranked No. 15) and Krawczyk (ranked No. 17) won both their semifinal and final matches in straight sets and improved their 2021 win-loss record this season to 15-8. They are 9-4 on clay.

Last week, Guarachi and Krawczyk reach the semifinal round of the Emilia-Romagna Open in Parma, Italy. Now, they’re off to compete in the French Open, where last year they reached the final before losing to champions Timea Babos of Hungary and Kristina Mladenovic of France.