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Krejcikova Playing For History, Empowered By Novotna Memory in French Open Final

Former world No. 1 doubles player Barbora Krejcikova is bidding to become the first woman since Mary Pierce in 2000 to sweep French Open singles and doubles titles. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT

Barbora Krejcikova is never alone stepping on the singles court.

The former world No. 1 doubles player is aiming to make history in Paris this weekend as she faces 31st-seeded Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the French Open final.

Riding an 11-match clay-court winning streak into the final, Krejcikova is bidding to become the first woman since Mary Pierce in 2000 to sweep Roland Garros singles and doubles titles.

Pierce was watching from the broadcast booth as Krejcikova fought off match point out-dueling Maria Sakkari in a classic 7-5, 4-6, 9-7 triumph—the longest French Open semifinal in Open Era history— to reach her first Grand Slam singles final in Paris in just her fifth singles major main draw appearance. 

Krejcikova credits the memories of working with her mentor and former coach, the late Hall of Fame Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna, with helping her keep calm and carry on through some wild finishes on the sometimes unruly terre battue. She’s knocked off former French Open finalist Sloane Stephens, teenage phenom Coco Gauff and Sakkari solving every problem with a calm her former coach, who famously fought nerves at Wimbledon, helped instill.

“Like every time before the match or after the match I just feel like she’s there, she’s looking after me,” Krejcikova said of Novotna.

Barbora Krejcikova has beaten Sloane Stephens, Coco Gauff and Maria Sakkari en route to her first major singles final. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT

This remarkable Roland Garros run has already exceeded Krejcikova’s modest teenage dreams.

“When I was a kid, I actually grew up in a little city where we didn’t have like pro coaches or something. I was never thinking that I’m actually going to play pro,” Krejcikova said. “I never imagined that I’m going to be actually a Grand Slam finalist. I don’t know. I don’t know.

“It sounds, I mean, incredible. But it just sounds that I can’t really believe it. I cannot believe it. Yeah, I cannot believe it it’s actually happening. I cannot believe it.”

As a teenager, Krejcikova reached out to 1998 Wimbledon champion Novotna asking for help. The pair made a career-defining connection. Novotna died of cancer on November 19, 2017, but her lessons live on in Krejcikova.

“I wrote her a letter asking if she would help me in my career. She lived in a village near me,” Krejcikova recalled of Novotna. “I drove to her home with my parents and she was outside walking her dog. I told her I was a young player looking for advice and she agreed to help me. She helped me for three years until she became ill.”

Krejcikova can regain the world No. 1 doubles ranking if she and partner Katerina Siniakova beat 2020 Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek and Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the doubles final.

This will be a career-changing weekend for Krejcikova who plans to adopt a simple mind-set centered on a pair of F words: fun and fight.

“I just think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m just really going to enjoy it because I was never expecting to actually be this far during this tournament,” Krejcikova said. “I’m just going to have fun and just going to enjoy and fight until the end.”