Roland Garros will once again have an unthinkable champion. After the surprising consecration of Iga Swiatek in 2020, this year the trophy will go to the Czech Barbora Krejcikova, one of the best doubles players in the world who refused to be pigeonholed in that role, or the Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, former junior number 1 called to be the heir to Maria Sharapova but who passed a quarter-final of a Grand Slam just in Paris, at age 29.
In August 2005, Sharapova became the first Russian to dominate the WTA rankings as a 14-year-old girl emerged as the new promise of tennis in her country. It was Pavlyuchenkova, who the following year finished as junior world number 1, after winning six titles, including the Australian Open and the US Open. However, when in 2007 he began to rub shoulders with the professionals, tennis became his nightmare. Until now, he returned to put a Russian in a Grand Slam final after six years.
“Wow, I wanted him so much that I no longer know what he feels, there are many emotions, I am very happy but also very tired. It is my first final, I want to have fun, to play well, and the result does not matter,” he said this Thursday in Paris, after beating Tamara Zidansek (85th) by 7-5 and 6-3. She is already 29 years old and has 52 appearances in Grand Slams, which makes her the tennis players who played the greatest to reach a final. Until now, the record was of the Italian Flavia Penneta (49).
Pavlyuchenkova’s kiss. The Russian wants to make history at Roland Garros. Photo EFE / YOAN VALAT
Throughout her career, the 32nd in the world had played up to seven times in the quarterfinals of the different Grand Slams. This time, the story was different in Paris: he advanced to the semifinals, where he beat a rival six years younger to seek his 13th professional trophy, and he has already made sure to return to the top 20 – a ranking that he has not had since January 2018- , although it could be 14th to win in the French brick dust.
In addition, she will be the first Russian in a final in Paris since Sharapova did it in 2014 and the first in any Grand Slam since Australia 2015, when Sharapova also lost to Serena Williams. Six years passed and 24 Grand.
Surely, this is a present that Pavlyuchenkova did not imagine four years ago, when she went through a strong personal crisis. “I did not enjoy playing tennis, I did not enjoy doing anything. I did not know if I should continue because I felt trapped, exhausted. I was like that for two years, not knowing what to do to overcome it,” she said last year in Behind The Racquet.
In the final he will collide with another woman who had to fight against the odds to get there: the Czech Barbora Krejcikova, 25 years old and 33 in the WTA ranking, where her position in doubles stands out, as the seventh in the world. “At 22 I had been labeled a specialist,” she said a while ago, when she confessed her frustration at not being able to take off on the circuit as a singles player because she had reached the top of the doubles ranking.
Barbora Krejcikova’s kiss. She wants to be the second Czech to win in Paris. Photo EFE / EPA / YOAN VALAT
“Everyone put a tag on me as a doubles player, but I never thought about not playing singles. At 22 we won our first Grand Slam, at that moment I thought I didn’t want to be a stuntman at 22. I wanted to play singles, to work. hard, improve my game. I wanted to play against the best in the singles circuit. But it was frustrating to see that I could not get there, “he acknowledged.
Nine months ago, Krejcikova was out of the top 100 and, after her performance in France, she will be among the top 25 on the planet. “Now i feel happyI really appreciate getting here, seeing that I can do it well surrounded by all these incredible athletes. It’s very nice when I have a match point and I manage to close it, that’s when I raise my hands and enjoy the moment. I feel like I am where I want to be, where I always wanted to be, “he reinforced.
In all this time, his mind played a key role. So much so that in the previous match against Sloane stephens, with whom he managed to qualify for the first time to the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam, suffered an anxiety attack.
“In the absence of half an hour I locked myself in a room to cry. I had to lock myself in the physiotherapist’s room and talk to my psychologist, there I began to cry. I felt very bad and did not understand why,” he revealed.
This Thursday, when he lifted a match point and beat the Greek Maria sakkari by 7-5, 4-6 and 9-7 in 3 hours and 18 minutes, she was one step away from inscribing her name in history, since she can become the second Czech to win the tournament, after in 1981 would do Hana Mandlikova. Owner of a game that led her to stand out alone, she will also seek the final in the women’s doubles draw, along with her compatriot Katerina Siniakova.