Krejcikova Perseveres, Wins Roland-Garros Title

Barbora Krejcikova (photo: Corinne Dubreuil/FFT)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, June 12, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Women’s tennis crowned a first-time Grand Slam champion at the French Open in Paris Saturday afternoon. In a battle of late bloomers between the Czech Republic’s Barbora Krejcikova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, the Coupe Suzanne-Lenglen trophy was won by the 25-year-old from Brno, who proved she’s more than just a doubles specialist.

It was a battle of perseverance that rewarded Krejcikova, who has toiled on tour since 2014, with a 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 victory in one hour and 58 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier. She put away the Roland-Garros singles title on her fourth championship point.

The World No. 33 Krejickova became the third unseeded women’s singles champion in the past five years, following the 2017 success by Jelena Ostapenko and Iga Swiatek, who won in 2020.

Krejcikova entered Saturday’s final biding to be not only the first Czech woman since Hana Mandlikova in 1981 to win Roland-Garros but also the first woman to win both singles and titles in the same French Open fortnight since Mary Pierce in 2000.

Meanwhile, the No. 31 seed Pavlyuchenkova, ranked 32nd, arrived having set an Open Era record for most Grand Slam appearances before reaching a major final, while it took Krejcikova only five main-draw appearances to reach the final. Three years ago, Krejcikova won the Roland-Garros doubles title with Katerina Siniakova.

Regardless of the outcome, this would mark the sixth consecutive year that a new Roland-Garros women’s champion would be crowned. Krejcikova must have figured, “Why not me?”

After Krejcikova was broken at love, thanks to two double faults – perhaps showing signs of nervousness in her first major final – she turned things around in a hurry, and in her own deceptive but creative manner won six straight games to capture the 30-minute opening set 6-1. She did so by controlling the pace of each point and each game, hitting 13 winners.

As the second set unfolded, with the knowledge that 17 of the last 19 French Open women’s champions have won the first set, the 29-year-old Pavlyuchenkova finally held serve for the first time after being pummeled in her three first-set service games. Then, she broke Krejcikova on her third break-point opportunity.

Pavlyuchenkova, becoming more aggressive and relying on her serve, consolidated the break for a 3-0 advantage before Krejcikova held serve. She kept the pressure on her opponent by breaking Krejcikova on her third break-point try to end a 10-point game for a 5-1 lead. However, the Czech star wasn’t ready to concede the set. Instead, she came back to break the Russian, who then took an eight-minute medical time out to have her left thigh administered. Finally, Pavlyuchenkova evened the match by winning the 43-minute second set 6-2, finishing a 10-shot rally with a cross-court backhand winner, her 17th winner of the title match.

The third set began with an exchange of breaks before Pavlyuchenkova held at 30 for a 3-2 edge. A love hold for Krejcikova leveled the final stanza at 3-all. Then, she broke at love by capping a 10-shot rally with an up-the-line forehand winner to surge ahead 4-3, needing just two more games to win her first major. Krejcikova held for 5-3 after Pavlyuchenkova hit a pair of unforced errors, which put the Russian in a must-hold position to remain alive.

Pavlyuchenkova quickly dug herself in a hole at 15-40 and facing championship points. However, she erased both of them as Krejcikova hit a couple of long backhand returns. Then, the Russian held serve at 4-5 when Krejcikova netted a forehand return. Still, it left the Czech in the position of serving for the championship. This time, she didn’t look back.

While it took two more championship points to secure the title, Krejcikova finally did it. On her fourth championship point, Pavlyuchenkova hit the fourth shot of the rally long. Suddenly, the title match had ended. Krejcikova raised her arms in celebration, then shared a warm hug with Pavlyuchenkova at the net.

Soon after, as the feeling of winning the championship began to sink in, Krejcikova could be seen sitting at her bench saying “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it.”

Krejcikova hit 34 winners to 31 unforced errors and converted six of 14 break points, while Pavlyuchekova hit 23 winners and committed 16 unforced errors. Krejcikova outpointed her opponent 85-75.

Krejcikova received the Coupe Suzanne-Lenglen trophy from Hall of Famer Martina Navratilova, who won the women’s singles title at Roland-Garros in 1982 and 1984 and reached the final on four other occasions.

Throughout the run to the final, Krejcikova insisted that she would not let the moment overwhelm her. As she told the WTA Insider earlier this week, “Whatever will be, will be. I’ll take home a memory with me, whether it’s a plate or a trophy. I don’t think it matters at this point I’m just going to enjoy it, and fight until the last ball.”

Krejcikova did just that, she fought until the last ball was hit. Then, with 5,000 fans and a world-wide TV audience looking in, she allowed the thrill of her victory to well up in her eyes, in her voice and – most importantly – in her heart.

Van Assche wins junior boys’ title

Luca Van Assche became the first French boys’ singles champion in Paris since 2016 after defeating No. 14 seed Arthur Fils, 6-4, 6-2, in 62 minutes on Court 14 Saturday.

In the first all-French boys’ singles final at Roland-Garros since 2002, the 13th-seeded Van Assche outpointed Fils 60-42. He did not drop a set throughout the boys’ junior tournament.

“I was very, very happy to win this big tournament in France in front of our fans, in front of French people,” Van Assche said. “It was very cool.”

The 17-year-old Van Assche, from Paris, is the 14th French boys’ singles champion at Roland-Garros and the first since Geoffrey Blancaneaux in 2016.

Noskova wins first junior girls’ major title

Linda Noskova of the Czech Republic defeated Erika Andreeva of Russia, 7-6 (3), 6-3, to win her first Grand Slam girls’ title on Court 14 Saturday. During the one-hour 37-minute final, Noskova saved seven of 10 break points and won 62 percent of her second-serve points.

Noskova, 16, who beat three Top-10 seeds en route to the title, is the first Czech to collect the girls’ title at Roland-Garros since Hana Mandlikova in 1978. She’s also the first from her country to win a major junior singles title since Marie Bouzkova at the 2014 US Open.

Ranked World No. 20 in the junior rankings and already with a WTA ranking of No. 655, Noskova became the first Czech girl to reach the Roland-Garros singles final since Eva Sviglerova finished runner-up in 1989.

• In the girls’ doubles final, Alexandra Eala of the Philippines won her second Grand Slam doubles trophy to go with the Australian Open 2020 girls’ doubles crown she earned last year. The top-seeded Eala and Oksana Selekhmeteva of Russia beat Maria Bondarenko of Russia and Amarissa Kiara Toth of Hungary, 6-0, 7-5.

Saluting the junior champions