Roland Garros has produced its share of surprise results and finals throughout the decades, and the women’s final set for this Saturday is apt to go down as one of the more surprising match-ups in a championship. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Barbora Krejcikova have both enjoyed Cinderella runs to reach this stage, but only one of them will see the fairytale realized and leave Paris the Roland Garros Women’s Singles Champion.
Pavlyuchenkova is probably the more familiar name to tennis fans. She showed quite a bit of promise a decade ago, rising to Number 13 in the world. She has a great baseline game, able to inflict damage from both wings and on the return, but she possesses an underrated transitional game that has seen her perform well in the double in Paris as well. It is a game that has garnered her twelve singles title, and if she has it firing on all cylinders, could see her secure her first major singles crown.
Krejcikova is a relative newcomer to singles success, earning her first singles title in Strasbourg right before coming to Paris. She currently resides at a career-high ranking of Number 33 in the world, and with her run here, will only see it climb further up the ranks. She has phenomenal touch and feel at the net and an enviable ability to open up the court with angles, which are skills that have already made her a top doubles player. With her increased consistency at the baseline and willingness to mix it up and give opponents different looks, she has carved out her own success in the French capital, and if she can utilize all the tools in her bag for one more match, she could be the one leaving with a nice piece of shiny hardware.
As any professional athlete can attest, however, sports are never solely about the physical execution of the X’s and O’s. The mental component plays a huge part, and in Saturday’s final, it could prove to be an even greater factor than in most.
Neither woman has been to this stage of a slam, so there are the usual question marks that come with trying to predict how a player will react to the occasion. When each looks across the net at the other, they will not see a former major singles champion, former Number 1, or even a former member of the Top 10 standing in their way. And while logically they might understand that this increases their odds of getting across the finish line instead of facing someone like Serena Williams, it also takes away the freedom to swing away that comes with being a clear underdog. Furthermore, though both players deserve nothing but the utmost respect for what they have achieved these last two weeks, there is a sense that realistically this could very well be their one and only look at a slam singles title.
As to who is more mentally prepared for the moment, that is anyone’s guess. Pavlyuchenkova has talked about how she was not mentally ready for the moment earlier in her career, but with age comes wisdom and experience, suggesting she might be ready now. Krejcikova, however, does have the experience of winning a couple of major doubles titles, which is experience that could come in handy. She has also proven remarkably resilient after the controversy on what should have been a match point in her favor in her semifinal match against Maria Sakkari. But after that roller coaster ride, is she emotionally spent or is there still something left in the tank?
When all is said and done, neither of these women can be counted out to win the title. Both have repeatedly shown throughout this fortnight that they are up to the challenge of overcoming adversity. Both also represent inspiring stories. Pavlyuchenkova has shown that patience and perseverance can pay off in the long run, with good things coming to those who wait. Krejcikova is also proving to be a late bloomer in singles but in so doing, demonstrating that it is still possible to make the leap from doubles to singles. As the fresher of the two coming off of the less-taxing semifinal, the edge should go to Pavlyuchenkova, but the only statement that can be made with any certainty is that Roland Garros will be crowning a maiden major single champion on Saturday.