PARIS – Unseeded Barbora Krejcikova won her first Grand Slam title by beating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 in the French Open final Saturday.
This was only the fifth major tournament in singles for Krejcikova, a 25-year-old from the Czech Republic. She is the third unseeded women’s champion in the last five years at Roland Garros. Krejcikova 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. Krejcikova and partner Kateria Siniakova already own two Grand Slam doubles titles and are scheduled to play in the final of that event in Paris on Sunday.
The 31st-seeded Pavlyuchenkova was playing in her first Grand Slam final in the 52nd major tournament of her career. She was treated for a left leg injury late in the second set Saturday. This was only the second WTA singles title for Krejcikova, 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 produced by, and particular footwork required on, the surface can frustrate players. 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 quarterfinals.
The 25-year-old Krejcikova paid an emotional tribute to her mentor Novotna who died of cancer at the age of 49 in 2017. Krejcikova said: “I was going through a bad time when Jana (Novotna) was passing. Her last words were to just enjoy and try and win a Grand Slam. All of it in the last two weeks is because of her. She is an inspiration for me, I miss her.”
“It’s hard to put into words. I cannot believe I have just won a Grand Slam,” said Krejcikova who was still outside the top 100 when the 2020 French Open took place last October. “I spent a lot of time with Jana before she died. Her last words to me were ‘enjoy tennis and try and win a Grand Slam’. “I know she’s looking after me. All this is pretty much because she is looking after me. “It was amazing that I got the chance to meet her. She was such an inspiration. I miss her and I hope she’s really happy.”
Pavlyuchenkova was playing in her first Slam final at the 52nd attempt and was attempting to become the third oldest first-time winner of a major. “I was preparing a speech for this moment ever since I was a little kid and now I am lost for words,” said the 29-year-old. “Many thanks to my friends who came here from all over the world for one match – maybe they thought this was my one and only chance! “Congratulations to Barbora. I don’t know how you play singles and doubles. I was dead on the last point.”