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Unseeded Krejcikova Wins Roland Garros Title, Honors Coach Novotna

In just her fifth Grand Slam main draw, unseeded Barbora Krejcikova beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 to win her maiden major at Roland Garros. EPA-EFE/IAN LANGSDON

Shoes streaked with dirt, Barbora Krejcikova raised her eyes to the sky in elation and blew a kiss toward the heavens.

Playing just her fifth major main draw, the unseeded Krejcikova defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 in today’s Roland Garros final realizing her greatest dreams with eyes wide open—and the spirit of her tennis mentor the late, great Jana Novotna burning brightly in her heart.

Trailing 2-3 in the decider, Krejcikova caught a higher gear bursting through eight straight points backing a shutout hold with a love break.

A committed Krejcikova churned through four of the final five games to become the first Czech woman to win Roland Garros since Hana Mandlikova, representing Czechoslovakia, stopped Sylvia Hanika in the 1981 final.

The 25-year-old Krejcikova is the sixth different woman to raise the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen in the last six years and joins Jelena Ostapenko and Iga Swiatek as the third unseeded champion. The past 15 Grand Slams have crowned nine maiden major winners and though she showed signs of nerves at the start, Krejcikova, drawing on her experience as a doubles Grand Slam champion, did not shrink from the moment when it mattered most.

When Pavlyuchenkova’s final drive sailed long, a stunned Krejcikova showed a delayed reaction then looked straight up at the sky and blew a kiss honoring her former coach Novotna, who died of cancer on November 19, 2017, but whose life lessons live on in her protegee. 

Hall of Famer Novotna died of cancer on November 19, 2017, but her lessons live on in Krejcikova.

“I cannot believe what just happened. I cannot believe that I actually I won a Grand Slam,” Krejcikova said. “I was going through a really hard time when Jana was passing away…and pretty much her last words were just enjoy and just try to win a Grand Slam.

“I know from somewhere she’s looking after me and all of this that just happened this two weeks is because she is looking after me from up here and I just thank her. It was really amazing that I had a chance to meet her. That she was such an inspiration for me. I just really miss her. I hope she’s happy right now.”

Barbora Krejcikova blows a kiss toward the heavens after winning her maiden major at Roland Garros. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT

The 29-year-old Pavlyuchenkova made history contesting her first major final in her 52nd career Grand Slam to become the first woman in Open Era history to reach a maiden major after playing 50 or more Slams.Pavlyuchenkova fought hard, but was pained by both a left knee and left thigh injury that required treatment for taping and sapped some sting from her serve.

“The more you play, the worse it gets to my body. When I was landing on my serve, I felt a lot of pain on the back of my leg. It was almost like pulling, so I had to wrap it up,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “Then I lost that game 4-3 because it was against the wind. I always felt like she was pushing on my serve.

“I felt like I needed to do a little bit more with my serve. She was playing with the wind. That’s how I felt. I was feeling a little bit like this all the time. I don’t know. I think she just played more solid and better in the end.”

Former world No. 1 doubles champion Krejcikova was flying high in the final stages today and will try to continue her historic flight tomorrow.

The 25-year-old Krejcikova and long-time Czech partner Katerina Siniakova will face 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek and Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the doubles final as they play for their second Roland Garros doubles crown in the last four years. If the pair prevail, Krejcikova will regain the world No. 1 doubles ranking and become the first woman since Mary Pierce in 2000 to sweep French Open singles and doubles championship.

Barbora Krejcikova will aim to become the first woman since Mary Pierce in 2000 to sweep singles and doubles championships at Roland Garros when she plays the doubles final tomorrow. EPA-EFE/IAN LANGSDON

On her fourth championship point today, Krejcikova watched Pavlyuchenkova’s final drive sail long, paused as if both dazed and in disbelief, before thrusting her arms toward the sky and smiling fulfilling a shared dream.

“Right now, all of my dreams came true,” Krejcikova said. “I just cannot believe it. It was a dream come true, a dream come true.”