Barbora Krejcikova, a 25-year-old Czech tagged a doubles specialist until a year ago, won the French Open, capping a topsy-turvy women’s tournament.
Krejcikova downed Russian veteran and fellow surprise finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 to become the seventh unseeded female Grand Slam singles champion.
Asked to share her emotions, Krejcikova paused for a moment, thanked the Court Philippe Chatrier crowd and, after a follow-up question, said, “I can’t believe what just happened.”
Krejcikova, a five-time Grand Slam winner in doubles and mixed, last year won her first Grand Slam main-draw singles match and broke into the top 100 in singles for the first time. She had zero wins over top-10 players until last month.
Krejcikova, formerly coached by the late 1998 Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna, a fellow Czech, won a low-level clay tournament in Strasbourg, France, the day before the French Open began.
“When Jana was passing away [in 2017] I was most of the time with her,” said Krejcikova, who received the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen from Czech-born legend Martina Navratilova. “Pretty much her last words were just enjoy, just try to win a Grand Slam. I know from somewhere she is looking after me.
“I just really miss her.”
In Paris, Krejcikova is 12-0 between singles and doubles. She’ll play for another title with partner Katerina Siniakova on Sunday.
“I really don’t know how you have that courage and power, playing doubles and singles,” Pavlyuchenkova said.
In singles, she navigated a draw that was otherwise defined by missing stars. The world’s top three players were all gone before the third round without losing: Ash Barty withdrew with a hip injury, Naomi Osaka withdrew citing mental health and Simona Halep withdrew before the tournament with a calf tear.
Given all that, Serena Williams, who lost in the fourth round, could start Wimbledon in two weeks as the favorite.
Krejcikova’s path was not bulldozed clear, however. She took out No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina, 2018 French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens and two dangerous players over the last year, seeds Coco Gauff and Maria Sakkari (match point down), en route to the final.
Pavlyuchenkova, born five months before the break-up of the Soviet Union, was bidding to become the third-oldest first-time women’s Grand Slam champion in the Open Era.
She became the first woman to play more than 50 majors before reaching her first final. The former junior No. 1 lost all of her previous 12 Grand Slam quarterfinals between singles and doubles before this week. She owns 37 career wins over top-10 players, the most for any woman yet to break into the top 10.
“She’s already a great champion,” Krejcikova said.
Pavlyuchenkova suffered an upper left leg injury in the final, taking a medical timeout late in the second set and reportedly saying that she could not serve. She won five more games after that.
“In the last point I think I was dead,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “I don’t have any more fuel.”
On Sunday, Novak Djokovic plays Stefanos Tsitsipas in the men’s final, live on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app at 9 a.m. ET.
Djokovic can become the first man to win all four majors twice in the Open Era. He can also win a 19th Grand Slam singles title, moving one shy of the record shared by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
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