Sport 2021 French Open: Women's final preview
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And then there were two.
After another upset-ravaged women’s draw at the 2021 French Open, we are down to the final two women and it will be Barbara Krejcikova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova who will fight it out for the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen on Saturday night/Sunday morning (AEST).
In one corner you have Krejcikova, who going into this year’s tournament had only won a grand total of five grand slam matches but has more than doubled that here, winning six matches to progress to her first final at this level.
En route, she defeated the likes of fifth seed Elina Svitolina, former US Open champion Sloane Stephens and American teenage sensation Coco Gauff before saving a match point against Greek 17th seed Maria Sakkari in an epic semi-final on Friday morning (AEST).
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The 25-year-old has now become just the fourth woman from her country to reach a major final this century, following in the footsteps of Petra Kvitova (twice at Wimbledon, and at the 2019 Australian Open), Lucie Safarova (2015 French Open) and Marketa Vondrousova (2019 French Open).
She will also attempt to smash a 40-year hoodoo at Roland Garros, with no player from her country having saluted here since Hana Mandlikova did so in 1981.
In the other corner you have Russian veteran Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who for so long has been playing in the shadows of her more successful compatriots in Maria Sharapova (five major titles, world number one) and Svetlana Kuznetsova (two majors, highest ranking two).
The soon-to-be 30-year-old has been a consistent player throughout her time, but ever since reaching her first grand slam quarter-final here in 2011 (where she lost to Francesca Schiavone after being a set and a break up) she has struggled for consistency at the highest level.
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Not including this year’s French Open, she reached a further five major quarter-finals but could not progress any further; three of those came at the Australian Open (2017, 2019 and last year).
However, this year, she has been able to finally break her grand slam quarter-final curse, defeating Elena Rybakina in three sets to reach the final four for the first time.
That followed on from preceding wins over a pair of Belarusian players, first over third seed Aryna Salabenka in the third round, and then former world number one Victoria Azarenka in the fourth, both in three sets.
She had also defeated American Christina McHale and Australian Ajla Tomljanovic in the opening two rounds.
In her semi-final she came from an early break down to defeat Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek in straight sets, winning 7-5, 6-3 to finally reach her first grand slam final on her 52nd attempt – making this the longest wait in Open era history.
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The Moscow native, who won three junior major titles in the noughties, now has the chance to become just the fourth Russian woman to win a major title ever.
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She would also follow in the footsteps of Anastasia Myskina, who won her first (and only) major title at the 2004 French Open, while Maria Sharapova (twice, in 2012 and 2014) and Svetlana Kuznetsova (in 2009) have also triumphed on the clay courts of Paris.
In Sharapova’s case, she defeated Sara Errani in the 2012 final to complete her set of grand slam titles, then backed it up two years later by defeating Simona Halep in the only major final she contested that went to three sets.
Now it’s time for Pavlyuchenkova to write her own history and finally emerge from the shadows of her more successful compatriots, with Sharapova having since retired and Kuznetsova, who turns 36 later this month, close to the end of the road.
Now that you’ve got the background info above, it’s time to crunch the all-important numbers below.
Barbara Krejcikova (CZE) vs  Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS)
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Saturday, June 12, 11:00pm (AEST) (3:00pm local time)
Court Philippe Chatrier
Head-to-head: First meeting
Barbara Krejcikova’s road to the final
Round 1: defeated Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) 5-7, 6-4, 6-2
Round 2: defeated  Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) 6-2, 6-3
Round 3: defeated  Elina Svitolina (UKR) 6-3, 6-2
Round 4: defeated Sloane Stephens (USA) 6-2, 6-0
Quarter-final: defeated  Coco Gauff (USA) 7-6 (8-6), 6-3
Semi-final: defeated  Maria Sakkari (GRE) 7-5, 4-6, 9-7
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova’s road to the final
Round 1: defeated Christina McHale (USA) 6-4, 6-0
Round 2: defeated Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) 6-2, 6-3
Round 3: defeated  Aryna Sabalekna (BLR) 6-4, 2-6, 6-0
Round 4: defeated  Victoria Azarenka (BLR) 5-7, 6-3, 6-2
Quarter-final: defeated  Elena Rybakina (KAZ) 6-7 (2-7), 6-2, 9-7
Semi-final: defeated Tamara Zidansek (SLO) 7-5, 6-3
The stats that matter
For both women this is their first grand slam final.
This is the fifth straight French Open final to guarantee a new champion at the tournament.
This is also the sixth straight French Open final in which a maiden grand slam champion is crowned at Roland Garros (see note below).
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is the first Russian to reach a major final since Maria Sharapova lost to Williams in the 2015 Australian Open final, and the first other than Sharapova to do so since Vera Zvonareva lost to Kim Clijsters in the 2010 US Open final.
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Her 52-major wait to reach a first final is the longest in the Open era; the first major she contested was Wimbledon in 2007.
If victorious, she would also become just the fourth different woman from her country (after Anastasia Myskina, Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova) to win a major title, and also at Roland Garros. She’d also become the first Russian other than Sharapova to win a major since Kuznetsova won here in 2009.
Barbara Krejcikova is the fourth different woman from the Czech Republic to reach a major final in the past decade, after Petra Kvitova, Lucie Safarova and Marketa Vondrousova.
She is aiming to become the first woman from her country to win the French Open since Hana Mandlikova in 1981, and the first to win a major since Kvitova claimed the second of her two Wimbledon titles in 2014.
Her first major final comes in her fifth appearance, not enough to equal the record for the fewest number of major appearances before winning her maiden title (Bianca Andreescu won the 2019 US Open in her fourth major appearance).
Krejcikova would, however, join the likes of Andreescu, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova in winning their maiden major title inside their first ten major appearances.
Note, Garbine Muguruza, Simona Halep and Iga Swiatek defeated previous major champions (Serena Williams, Sloane Stephens and Sofia Kenin) to win their first major titles in 2016, 2018 and last year, respectively.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in straight sets.
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