Neither Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova nor Barbora Krejcikova is a household name in the tennis world, let alone among sports fans as a whole. But the two lightly regarded players have outlasted all of the stars at Roland Garros and will play for the French Open title on Saturday.
The 31st-seeded Pavlyuchenkova dispatched Tamara Zidansek in straight sets, scoring a 7-5, 6-3 win in their semifinal.
Pavlyuchenkova finally reaches a final
Each of the four women remaining in contention at the French Open on Thursday was making their first appearance in a Grand Slam semifinal. That meant that everyone was walking through uncharted territory the rest of the way. Pavlyuchenkova survived a sloppy, back-and-forth match. Zidansek managed to break serve four times, but Pavlyuchenkova scored six breaks of her own, enough to outlast the Slovenian.
Pavlyuchenkova once looked like a future star in tennis. She ranked inside the top 20 in her teenage years and had reached six Grand Slam quarterfinals before this year’s French Open. But she had always lost at that step — prior to now.
“Tennis is such a mental sport,” the 29-year-old Pavlyuchenkova said after the win. “That’s what is really hard about tennis.”
Pavlyuchenkova set a record by playing in 52 Grand Slam tournaments before reaching a final, more than any other woman.
Krejcikova overcomes missed call to reach French Open final
Krejcikova faced a rougher path to the French Open final. She defeated No. 17 seed Maria Sakkari 7-5, 4-6, 9-7, but the ending wasn’t without controversy.
At one point, Krejcikova began to celebrate as Sakkari hit a ball at match point that appeared to go long. The linesman called the ball out, but chair umpire Pierre Bacchi overruled them. Unofficial replays showed the ball indeed landed beyond the baseline. The call didn’t ultimately impact the match, as Krejcikova won the third set five points later.
Sakkari led 5-3 in the third set, and even had a set point on Krejcikova’s serve. But Krejcikova saved match-point and came back to book her first Grand Slam final appearance.
“I always wanted to play a match like this,” Krejcikova said afterward. “Every time, when I was younger [and] I was playing juniors, I always wanted to play a match like this. Such a challenging match, where we both had our chances, we both have been playing so well. Only one can win.”
Heading into the final, Pavlyuchenkova clearly has the experience advantage. Not only does she have extensive Grand Slam experience, but she’s also won 12 titles on tour. Krejcikova, on the other hand, is on a hot streak: she won her first tour title last month, and has won 11 straight matches.
Oddsmakers are giving the slight edge to the hot hand. Krejcikova comes in as a -118 pick at FanDuel Sportsbook. The sportsbook lists Pavlyuchenkova as a -102 pick.