THE 2021 Roland Garros singles final played out overnight, with unseeded Czech Barbora Krejcikova claiming the silverware over 31st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The huge one hour and 58-minute clash went down to the wire as Krejcikova’s Russian opposition bit back in the second, before the tight third set cemented the Czech in the history books.
The first set saw Krejcikova gain the early ascendancy, with a huge 6-1 opener showcasing her intent and willingness to pressure hard in the contest. But Pavlyuchenkova would not back down, stealing the second 6-2 to ensure the duo had a real game on their hands, as the third set saw neither player give an inch. Both breaking serve and holding once more in the early stages of the third, it was Krejcikova who broke the mold and claimed three straight games to take herself to 5-3, with Pavlyuchenkova winning the next before the Czech served for the match and did not stutter, claiming the 6-1 2-6 6-4 clash.
“I’m extremely happy. It’s a dream come true, for sure,” Krejcikova said. “I’m just really happy that I was able to handle it as I did, that mentally I think that was the biggest key.”
Ranking outside the top 100 just nine months ago, Krejcikova has enjoyed a remarkable rise up the rankings and will make her top 20 debut on Monday, coming in at number 15, following an exciting past few weeks which saw her win her maiden singles title in Strasbourg just two week ago and afford her a current 12-match winning streak.
While the 25-year-old has outwardly struggled with confidence issues throughout the past week, she said her psychologist has been critical in her stepping on court each match, and mentally has been all the better for it.
“I’ve been actually talking to [my psychologist] before every single match that I play since I played Sloane (Sloane Stephens). It was really difficult. I’ve never been in a situation like this, not in the singles. I was a little bit panicking. I really wanted to win,” Krejcikova said.
“Also she gave me a lot of courage to actually go on court, just be happy that I’m actually there. All of this… it’s a big achievement that nobody really expected, not even me. She just told me, Just be happy, just go out there. It’s going to be finals, but just take it as a regular match, pretty much as a practice match that you just want to improve. Just go with this attitude and you see. You’re going to make it or it’s going to come next time.
“I knew that if I really want to win, I’m just going to put so much pressure on myself, it’s not going to happen. We had the conversation about this. She just told me just to go and enjoy. We spoke about how to talk to myself, what to do when I’m going to feel nervous on court. Like simple things, what to do.”
This is not the former doubles number one’s first major title, having registered eight doubles titles across three of the four grand slams in juniors, women’s and mixed divisions. Krejcikova says that this is a dream come true – especially given she will contest the doubles title alongside compatriot Katerina Siniakova on Monday.
“It’s something I have always dreamed about,” she said. “Winning here, my first doubles title, then winning the mixed ones. Now I was just telling myself, It would be really nice if I can get the Grand Slam in all three categories. Now it’s happening. I cannot believe it. Wow.”
Krejcikova is the first Czech woman to lift the Roland Garros singles trophy since Hana Mandlikova in 1981 – playing for the former Czechoslovakia – and the third unseeded champion in the past five years, following the footsteps of Jelena Ostapenko (2017) and Iga Swiatek (2020).
Pavlyuchenkova held no hard feelings for her opposition, telling media post-match that she has been suffering from a minor leg injury throughout the event, but was not willing to give her potential opponents any indication of her pain.
“I have to be honest, I wasn’t mentioning because I was still in the tournament,” said Pavlyuchenkova. “I didn’t want my opponents to hear. But the Sabalenka match, I was actually in a really bad shape physically. I don’t know how I even won that match because I also had a medical treatment there, I had to wrap my leg.”
“I’ll keep on going,” she said. “Hopefully, you know, next time if I have a chance to be in the final I’ll handle it better and I’ll be more fresh and I’ll play better. That’s the goal right now. I want to believe that the best is yet to come, so I think that’s how I should approach the whole situation.”
ROLAND GARROS FINAL RESULT:
Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) defeated  Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 6-1 2-6 6-4
Picture credit: Nicolas Gouhier/FFT