French Open 2021: Barbora Krejcikova to meet Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in Paris final

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Czech Barbora Krejcikova showed incredible sprit to beat Maria Sakkari in a classic French Open semi-final and reach her first Grand Slam final.

Krejcikova, 25, won 7-5 4-6 9-7 with her fifth match point in a dramatic match lasting three hours.

Krejcikova, a former doubles world number one, thought she had won earlier in the final game but had a line call wrongly overruled by the umpire.

She will play Russian 31st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the final.

“I always wanted to play a match like this,” said Krejcikova, who is ranked 33rd in the world.

“When I was younger and I was playing juniors, I always wanted to play such a challenging match where we both had chances and were playing so well – and only one can win.

“Even if I lost today I would be very proud of myself because I was fighting. That is the most important thing, to fight, in here and in our own life.”

Pavlyuchenkova continued her late bloom at the French Open to also reach her first Grand Slam final, beating Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek 7-5 6-3 on the Paris clay.

Pavlyuchenkova, 29, was a dominant junior player but had never previously reached a Grand Slam semi-final before.

Pavlyuchenkova’s greater experience helps her through

While Pavlyuchenkova had not played at this level previously, she did have greater experience and pedigree than her 23-year-old opponent Zidansek, another semi-final debutant.

Pavlyuchenkova had reached six Grand Slam quarter-finals in her career – including at Roland Garros in 2011 – whilst having taken the scalps of Belarusian third seed Aryna Sabalenka and two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka in her run to the last four.

In comparison, 85th-ranked Zidansek had never been beyond the second round at a major.

She has also never won a WTA title, nor been ranked inside the world’s top 50, making her progress all the more surprising.

The Slovenian, who beat 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu in the first round, possesses a heavy forehand and the ability to play with variety, teeing up an intriguing semi-final which few would have dared to confidently predict.

An entertaining first set was delicately poised at 5-5 after both players had broken serve twice, with Pavlyuchenkova pinching the opener when Zidansek produced a nervy double fault on the Russian’s first set point.

Once Pavlyuchenkova broke for a 3-1 lead in the second set, Zidansek looked in danger of crumbling but fought back to break serve for 4-3 when Pavlyuchenkova also double-faulted at a key moment.

However, the Russian composed herself to break again in the following game and served out to clinch her place in Saturday’s final.

After Zidansek pummelled a backhand into the tramlines on the first match point, Pavlyunchenkova showed little emotion, seemingly shocked by the scale of her achievement and covered in sweat after a tough battle.

“I don’t know what to think because I’m so tired but so happy. It is so emotional,” she said in her on-court interview.

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