PARIS – The landing of the ball at the feet of Barbora Kreychikova at the point of the match seems to have descended behind the baseline.
The line officer thought so and called the shot long. A repeat TV replay confirmed the same thing, and the unscathed Kreichikova was so sure that she raised her hands triumphantly to celebrate a place in her first Grand Slam final at the French Open.
Judge Pierre Bucky disagreed. He reversed the call, sparking a new round of discussions over the replay of the video and postponing Kreichikova’s victory for a short time.
Tennis was spared an unfair result five points later when she hit a backhand winner to close the biggest victory of her career. The Czech saved a match point in the middle of the final set and surpassed the number 1
“I’ve always wanted to play matches like this,” Kreichikova said.
She must like train trains too. Her opponent on Saturday will be 29-year-old Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who also advanced to her first main final, defeating undefeated Tamara Zidansek, 7-5, 6-3.
It was only the second time in his professional era that he had four Grand Slam semi-finalists for the first time in a major tournament and for the first time since the 1978 Australian Open.
Kreichikova, a two-time big doubles champion ranked 33rd, is playing a single in the main draw of a major tournament for only the fifth time. On the other hand, the number 31 Pavlyuchenkova plays in more specialties before reaching the final – 52 – than any other woman.
A toy in the top 20 as a teenager, Pavlyuchenkova was 0-6 in the grand quarterfinals before finally overcoming that hurdle on Tuesday, and was more stable than the swinging Zidansek in their semifinals.
“I wanted it so badly that I don’t feel anything at the moment,” Pavlyuchenkova told the crowd in French.
Kreichikova’s duration until the final is just as incredible.
“Sounds amazing,” she said. “I can’t believe it. It’s actually happening.”
Nine games from the third set seemed particularly unlikely when Sakari held a match point. She admitted that she then became less aggressive.
“I was stressed when I started thinking I was at the point of the final,” she said. “I guess it’s a rookie mistake.”
Kreichikova erased the match point with a waving volley for a nervous winner and 40 minutes later they were still playing.
Then came the real drama. With Kreichikova holding a match point in the final game, Sakari hit a forehand near the baseline. Bucky got down from his chair, glanced, called the blow good, and ordered the point to be repeated.
“He came and he’s like, ‘This is it,’ and I’m like, ‘No, no, no, no, no, no.’ Why? She said with a laugh. “But what can I do?” I can’t change his mind. This is good; let’s go. Let’s just try to win the next one. “
Repeated TV replays show that the ball is obviously long, but the video review is not used at Roland Garros, where the balls usually leave clear marks in the clay.
Kreichikova kept calm and celebrated for good moments later, after transforming her fifth match point.
There wasn’t as much drama in the first game of the day, but the quality of the game was as pleasant as the warm, cloudless weather. The 85th-ranked Zidane, who became the first Slovenian to reach the quarter-finals of the Grand Slam this week, was the better player for much of the first set, moving well and hitting more aggressive kicks.
But Pavlyuchenkova won the most important points, and Zidansek threw consecutive unstable serves into the net to lose the set.
Pavlyuchenkova’s shots brought more horror in the second set as she competed 4-1. Her first sign of nerves came when she failed twice, including at the break point to make it 4-3, but she backed down and easily passed the win.
“Tennis is such a mental sport,” she said. “That’s what’s really hard for tennis.”
Zidansek could only agree.
“A new situation for me, Grand Slam semifinals,” she said. “So, yes, I got nervous. But who is not at this moment? I was just trying to get my nerves together as best I could. ”
Pavlyuchenkova, who won 12 tournament titles, will climb back into the Top 20 next week for the first time since January 2018.
“She is in the final,” Kreichikova said. He must be playing well.
The same can be said for Kreichikova, who won 11 consecutive games, including her first WTA singles title last month in Strasbourg. She is the eighth seedless finalist at the French Open in the professional era and fourth in the last five years.
Protege of the late Grand Slam champion Jana Novotna, Krejcikova aspires to become the first Czech woman to win Roland Garros after Hannah Mandlikova in 1981.
She is also trying to become the first woman to win both doubles and singles at Roland Garros after Mary Pierce in 2000. She and Katerina Sinyakova advanced to the semifinals on Friday.