Krejcikova Saves MP, Outlasts Sakkari In French Open Thriller, Will Meet Pavlyuchenkova For Title
by Staff | June 10th, 2021, 5:10 pm
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In the longest women’s semifinal at the French Open in the Open Era, Barbora Krejcikova outlasted Maria Sakkari 7-5, 4-6, 9-7 in a thrilling 3 hours, 18 minutes.

“I actually think we both deserve to win because we played a really, really great match,” said Krejcikova. “But only one can win. I’m really happy that it’s me, that I’m going to have another chance to play another match.”

The match had it just about everything.

Playing in their first Slam semifinal, both players came out shaky with service holds at a premium. Sakkari was the stronger early leading 3-1. Then the Czech came back only to drop serve at love while trying close out the first at 5-3. She would eventually get it done by breaking to take the opener, her 11th straight set.

Sakkari fought back breaking immediately, then holding for after leading 4-0 to force the decider.

When Krejcikova returned from an 8-minute post-set bathroom break, the Greek No. 1 kept the momentum scratching out a break to go up 3-1. And thing looked good for Sakkari to reach her third career final. But tensions were rising.

Serving 3-5, 30-40, Krejcikova coolly swatted away a match point with a strong backhand winner down the line.

Sakkari could still serve it out at 5-4 but her string of five straight service holds came to a crashing end as she couldn’t recover from a 0-30 hole.

With Sakkari serving 6-7, Krejcikova would get three more chances, but once again she came up short.

Krejcikova enjoyed another easy service game to go up 8-7 (she had won 12 of her last 13 points on serve), then with Sakkari serving 7-8, 30-40, a Sakkari shot was called out. TV showed Hawkeye confirming the out call (Hawkeye is not used on clay at the French) however chair umpire Pierre Bacchi overruled the call and the point had to be replayed. Sakkari would win it, but moments later Krejcikova would close the door with a final backhand winner.

“I always wanted to play a match like this, every time, when I was younger, when I was playing juniors, I always wanted to play a match like this,” Krejcikova told the crowd. “Even if I had lost today, I would have still been proud of myself because I was fighting. Fighting is the most important thing, in here, and in real life.”

She then acknowledged her former coach and Grand Slam champion Jana Novotna who passed in 2017.

“Jana Novotna from upstairs, she’s just really looking after me, I really miss her and I really want to thank her for,” she said. “Just because of her I’m here, it’s really important for me to say this out loud.”

Sakkari, who was the highest seed to make the semifinals, came so close.

“I got stressed, starting thinking that I’m a point away from being in the final,” Sakkari said. “I guess it’s a rookie mistake. I think it’s human emotions, but I think I’ll learn from it.

“When I was serving for the match, I thought I was very closed to the final,” Sakkari added. “I have to find a way to trick my mind and not to do that again. It’s hard to express how bad I’m feeling right know. Even if it was a good run, I’m disappointed not to play the final.

The 25-year-old Krejcikova takes an 11-match win streak into the Saturday final against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The veteran Russian overcame a 2-0 deficit to deny the 85th-ranked Tamara Zidansek 7-5, 6-3 in a meeting of two women playing their first Slam semifinal.

Pavlyuchenkova was the steadier, more relaxed player as Zidansek hit 11 more unforced errors in the match than her counterpart. And the 29-year-old Pavlyuchenkova’s experience showed at the end.

“Playing that last game I was serving for, I was totally in my zone, focusing,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “‘I’m here right now. I know what I have to do.'”

“At the end of the day, I tried to stay in the match every point,” she added. “I had my tactic, I knew what I had to do. So just the discipline. I was trying to follow the discipline simply.”

In her 52nd career Slam, Pavlyuchenkova is finally into her first Slam final.

“I had my own long special road,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “Everybody has different ways. I don’t know, I’m just happy I’m in the final. Trying to enjoy.”

“I think about all the time,” said Pavlyuchenkova of winning a Slam. “Been thinking about it since I was a junior, since I was a little kid, since I started playing tennis. That’s what you’re playing for. That’s what you want. It’s been there in my head forever.”

Pavlyuchenkova and Krejcikova has never played before.

“I just think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Krejcikova said. “I’m just really going to enjoy it because I was never expecting to actually be this far during this tournament. I’m just going to have fun and just going to enjoy and fight until the end.”

Someone Saturday becomes a Grand Slam champion. And Krejcikova is still in the doubles semifinals on Friday.

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