Unseeded Barbora Krejcíková captures French Open for 1st Grand Slam title
3-set winner over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who received back treatment in 2nd set
Thinking of her late coach the whole time, Barbora Krejcíková went from unseeded to Grand Slam champion at the French Open.
Putting aside a shaky set, Krejcíková won just her fifth major tournament as a singles player by beating 31st-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 in the final at Roland Garros on Saturday.
When it ended in Paris with Pavlyuchenkova's backhand landing long on the fourth match point for Krejcíková, a 25-year-old from the Czech Republic, they met at the net for a hug.
Then Krejcíková blew kisses to the sky, her eyes squeezed shut, in a tribute to her former coach, Jana Novotna, the 1998 Wimbledon champion who died of cancer in 2017.
"Pretty much her last words were just enjoy and just try to win a Grand Slam. I know somewhere she's looking over me," Krejcíková told the crowd at Court Philippe Chatrier, limited to 5,000 people because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"She was such an inspiration for me. I just really miss her," Krejcíková said. "I hope she's happy right now."
WATCH | Krejčíková claims her 1st Grand Slam title:
She is the third unseeded women's champion in the last five years at Roland Garros.
Krejcíková now will try to become the first woman since Mary Pierce in 2000 to win the French Open singles and doubles titles in the same year. Krejcíková and partner Katerina Siniakova already own two Grand Slam doubles titles and are scheduled to play in the final of that event Sunday.
The 31st-seeded Pavlyuchenkova was playing in her first Grand Slam final in the 52nd major tournament of her career.
12-match win streak
She was treated for a left leg injury late in the second set Saturday.
This was only the second WTA singles title for Krejcíková, but they have come in her past two tournaments. She won the trophy on clay at Strasbourg, France, last month and is now on a 12-match winning streak.
She is the sixth consecutive first-time Grand Slam champion to collect the trophy at Roland Garros, where the red clay can diminish the effectiveness of speedy serves and the sometimes odd bounces on a surface that can frustrate players and demands particular footwork.
Saturday's matchup between two first-time Grand Slam finalists was perhaps a fitting conclusion to a two weeks filled with surprises.
- Naomi Osaka, a four-time major champion seeded No. 2, withdrew after one match — and a conflict with Grand Slam officials over a rule that mandates speaking to the media — to take a mental health break.
- No. 1-ranked Ash Barty, the 2019 champion, retired from her second-round match with a left hip injury.
- No. 3 Simona Halep, the 2018 champion, never showed up because of a hurt calf.
- Serena Williams was beaten in the fourth round.
- Defending champion Iga Swiatek lost in the quarter-finals.
Krejcíková spoke frankly earlier in the tournament about her feelings of stress and panic before heading out to face 2017 U.S. Open champion and 2018 French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens in the fourth round.
Krejcíková said she worried she wouldn't win a game and was in tears, not wanting to even play the match, before her sports psychologist talked her through it.
WATCH | Krejcikova books her spot in women's final:
Good thing, too, because Krejcíková beat Stephens 6-2, 6-0. That went alongside wins over No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina and No. 24 Coco Gauff, a 17-year-old American, before Krejcíková saved a match point in the semifinals and edged No. 17 Maria Sakkari 9-7 in the third set.
There were some jitters apparent in the opening game Saturday: Krejcíková double-faulted twice and got broken.
Crisp 2-handed backhand
But she snapped out of it right away.
Krejcíkováexcelled with her crisp two-handed backhand, net skills honed in doubles and particularly good use of defensive lobs. One curled over Pavlyuchenkova and landed right in a corner for a winner that helped Krejcíková break to 1-1 and begin a six-game run that gave her the first set. Another was dumped into the net on an overhead attempt by a backpedaling Pavlyuchenkova.
But Pavlyuchenkova regrouped and went up 5-1 in the second set. But that's when she stretched for a backhand, winced and leaned on her racket while reaching for her upper left leg.
At the ensuing changeover, she took a medical timeout. A trainer treated and taped the leg while Pavlyuchenkova was laying face-down on a towel, a bag of candy within reach.
Right away, Pavlyuchenkova claimed that set. While Krejcíková took a lengthy trip to the locker room before the third, Pavlyuchenkova stood on the sideline pantomiming a serving motion to practice landing on her left leg.
In the third, it was Krejcíková who kept nosing ahead. She broke to lead 2-1 when Pavlyuchenkova double-faulted. After Pavlyuchenkova broke right back, capping it with a big forehand winner she celebrated with a shout, Krejcíková again gained the upper hand by breaking at love with a forehand winner that made it 4-3.
Pavlyuchenkova saved two match points while serving at 5-3, and Krejcíková wasted another by double-faulting in the next game.
But she won it on the following chance and soon enough was kissing the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen and gently rocking the trophy during the Czech national anthem.
Herbert-Mahut eye Tokyo after French Open title
French pair Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert will turn their focus to winning an Olympic gold medal in Tokyo this summer after claiming the French Open doubles titles for the second time.
Mahut and Herbert, who have won all four Grand Slam tournaments together, defeated Alexander Bublik and Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan 4-6, 7-6 (1), 6-4 in Saturday's final at Roland Garros.
It was their fifth Grand Slam title together.
Mahut fell on his back and put his head in his hands after they became the first all-French team to win twice at the clay-court major since World War II.
Mahut and Herbert won their first title in Paris in 2018.
"It's my dream as a kid to win Roland Garros. To be able to do it a second time in front of this crowd, I think it's really, maybe the best emotions that I've had," Herbert said.
A very emotional Mahut held back tears and said winning the gold medal in doubles at the Olympics could well be the final big goal of their career.
The French pair saved three match points on Thursday to defeat second-seeded Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.