WILL EVANS’ daily preview serves up French Open tips for the 2021 final – and the chance for a grab at maiden Grand Slam glory for Barbora Krejčíková and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
23:00 (AEST), Sat 12th Jun @ Roland Garros, Paris
History: First meeting
Final Thoughts: The French Open will produce a first-time women’s Grand Slam champion for the sixth straight year as Barbora Krejčíková and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova square off in an unlikely final on Saturday.
Pavlychenkova, the 31st seed, snared some big scalps after comfortable early-round wins over Christina McHale and Ajla Tomljanovic.
The 29-year-old Russian then emerged victorious in three straight three-setters against third seed Aryna Sabalenka, 15th seed and two-time Slam winner Victoria Azarenka and 21st seed Elena Rybakina. Pavlyuchenkova defeated bolter Tamara Zidansek 7-5 6-3 in the semi-final.
Pavlyuchenkova is a six-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist but had never been to the final four until now. She has a solid clay-court résumé with three WTA titles on the surface, while she reached the Madrid Masters semi-finals last month.
World No.33 Krejčíková is appearing in just her fifth Grand Slam, though she made it to the fourth round at Roland Garros last year.
Krejčíková has swept aside a string of higher-profile opponents over the past fortnight. She has racked up straight-sets wins over 32nd seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, fifth seed Elina Svitolina, 2018 French Open finalist Sloane Stephens and 24th seed Coco Gauff.
Nerves of steel as Krejčíková books final berth
The 25-year-old was the $2.59 underdog in her semi-final but pulled off an epic 7-5 4-6 9-7 victory over new title favourite and 17th seed Maria Sakkari. She will be looking to cut down the errors and double-faults. But Krejčíková displayed remarkable nerve – saving a match point – to finally close out a classic semi.
The Czech went on to reach just her second WTA final at the Dubai Tennis Championships. She also pieced together an impressive French Open build-up on clay. Krejčíková rolled Sofia Kenin and took a set off Iga Świątek at the Rome Masters. She then claimed her maiden WTA title at the Internationaux de Strasbourg.
There is little between these players, besides Pavlyuchenkova’s experience advantage. Both are in terrific form. Both have produced high-quality upsets against very good players and bring captivating back stories into the match of their lives.
Krejčíková is the $1.76 favourite. Despite her marathon semi, her unorthodox style, razor-sharp backhand and counter-punching ability hold her in good stead for French Open glory. But it’s hard to imagine this one not going to three sets with plenty of twists and turns.