Barbora Krejcikova will play Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the French Open final after the Czech world No 33 saved a match point to defeat Greek 17th seed Maria Sakkari 7-5, 4-6, 9-7 on Thursday.
Krejcikova, 25, is the fourth unseeded women’s finalist in five years at Roland Garros. She won the French Open doubles title in 2018 but her best previous result in singles was a run to the fourth round here last year.
It will be the sixth successive French Open to crown a first-time women’s major champion.
“I always wanted to play a match like this, when I was younger, playing juniors, I always wanted to play such a challenging match where we both had chances and were playing so well,” said Krejcikova.
“Even if I lost today I would be very proud of myself, because I was fighting. That is the most important thing, in here and in our own life.”
Both players made a nervy start to their maiden Grand Slam semi-final, with 17th seed Sakkari the first to hold serve in the fourth game as she took a 3-1 lead.
But Krejcikova picked up the next four, pulling 5-3 ahead with a sublime lob that left her serving for the set.
The Czech was then broken to love as Sakkari rattled off eight points in a row to level at 5-5.
A routine hold from Krejcikova put the pressure back on Sakkari, who hammered a forehand long before surrendering the set as her shot clipped the net and floated wide.
Sakkari, who took down last year’s runner-up Sofia Kenin and then reigning champion Iga Swiatek in the past two rounds, regrouped and raced 4-0 ahead in the second.
The Greek fended off a spirited comeback from Krejcikova to force a decider after locking down a third set point.
Sakkari broke for a 2-1 edge as Krejcikova dragged a backhand wide, saving a break point in the next game to consolidate as the finish line crept ever closer.
The Greek had match point at 5-3 but the resilient Krejcikova stayed alive with a sweeping backhand volley, and then broke back before moving 6-5 in front.
Krejcikova watched three match points of her own pass by at 7-6, Sakkari saving a pair with a crunching backhand winner and an ace.
Krejcikova held again with relative comfort and brought up another match point on Sakkari’s serve. A forehand from the Greek was called long, but the chair umpire dramatically overruled – even as TV replays showed the ball to be out.
Rather than dwell on her apparent hard luck, Krejcikova brought up a fifth match point, converting after three hours and 18 minutes with a backhand winner down the line.
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