Paris, Jun 10 (EFE).- Barbora Krejcikova was one point away from defeat late in the third set against Maria Sakkari but managed to stay alive and then pull out an epic and highly entertaining 7-5, 4-6, 9-7 victory Thursday to book her spot in the French Open final.
The 25-year-old Czech, who had been known as a doubles specialist until recently and started the year ranked No. 65, survived one match point when serving down 3-5 in the third set before finally clinching victory in three hours and 18 minutes on her fifth match point.
Neither player was expected to reach the Roland Garros semifinal stage, and their early nerves were apparent in a sloppy first set that the 33rd-ranked Krejcikova won despite committing 17 unforced errors and striking only six winners.
The Czech player seemed to be in trouble when Sakkari won eight straight points to recover from a 5-3 deficit and even the first set at 5-5.
But three costly errors off the Greek player’s racket – including a forehand on set point that landed wide of the sideline after hitting the top of the net – cost her dearly when serving down 5-6.
After making 18 unforced errors in the opening set, Sakkari started relying less on shotmaking in the second set and more on her athleticism, defense and consistency against Krejcikova, a smooth ball-striker with a lot of variety in her game but a player who doesn’t allow herself much margin for error on her topspin backhand.
That strategy enabled her to grab a 4-0 lead and then force a decider when she held serve in a hard-fought 10th game.
Having won the second set with just eight unforced errors, the world No. 18 seemed to have the formula for success and then elicited enough mistakes from Krejcikova to build a 5-3 lead in the decider.
But after the Czech player saved a match point with a swinging backhand volley winner and narrowed Sakkari’s lead to 5-4, the Greek player seemed to stray from the tactics that had given her the lead.
Sakkari was broken when serving for the match after committing four unforced errors and then a pair of unforced errors in the 14th game gave Krejcikova her first two match points.
The world No. 18 saved both of them, erasing the second one with a backhand crosscourt winner and a third match point with an ace, but she ran into more trouble when serving down 7-8.
Krejcikova thought she had won the match when a ground stroke by her opponent was initially called out, but the point was replayed when the chair umpire ruled the ball had clipped the line and Sakkari stayed alive with another backhand crosscourt winner.
Two more Sakkari unforced errors, however, set up a fifth match point for Krejcikova, who finally converted her chance.
On that point, the Czech player showed much of the variety of shot that has made her an intriguing player to watch this fortnight.
She lofted up a moonball on the return of serve, pulled Sakkari off the court with a angled backhand and defended well with a forehand slice before finally taking advantage of a poor drop shot by her opponent to clinch the match with a backhand winner.
“I actually think we both deserve to win because we played a really, really great match,” Krejcikova said in the post-match press conference. “But only one can win. I’m really happy that it’s me, that I’m going to have another chance to play another match.”
Next up for the Czech player in Saturday’s championship match will be another surprise finalist, Russian world No. 32 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who defeated Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek 7-5, 6-3 in the day’s first semifinal.
“I just think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Krejcikova said. “I’m just really going to enjoy it because I was never expecting to actually be this far during this tournament. EFE