Barbora Krejcikova will play Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for the French Open title after the Czech saved a match point in a dramatic win over Maria Sakkari. At the same time, the Russian reached her first Grand Slam final Thursday at a record 52nd attempt.
On a day of enormous controversy, unseeded Krejcikova fought back from the brink to outlast Sakkari 7-5, 4-6, 9-7 after three hours and 18 minutes, while Pavlyuchenkova defeated world number 85 Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia 7-5, 6-3.
Krejcikova, ranked 33, gave the French Open its fourth unseeded women’s finalist in five years after a nerve-jangling, controversial three-set victory over Greece’s Sakkari.
Krejcikova watched three match-point opportunities pass by at 7-6, which was just the start of the immense drama. On Krejcikova’s fourth match point, Sakkari smacked a forehand that was called long by the linesman, but the chair umpire dramatically overruled — even as TV replays showed the ball to be out.
It has caused one of the most divisive debates in tennis to catch fire again, with commentators divided over whether the Hawkeye technology should replace all human linesmen and lineswomen.
New York Times tennis correspondent Ben Rothenberg reported that the video analysis system has not been approved for use on the Roland Garros clay surface because it has not passed reliability tests. The system is in use for the TV broadcast only — and is reported to be less accurate than in other tournaments around the world because Hawkeye has not set up as many cameras at this event. After all, it is not being used to make official calls.
This was pointed out by Aussie tennis coach and ESPN tennis commentator Darren Cahill, who posted on Twitter that the fury surrounding the so-called human error from the linesman was not fair. “There’s no guarantee that mark shown by Hawkeye was correct as it hasn’t passed the accuracy-test in trials on clay,” Cahill wrote.
“It’s why it is not used. It was dangerous to use Hawkeye to replay ball marks on clay (for TV) when it’s not reliable enough yet for match play. Just my opinion.’
There was a powerful counter-argument from commentators desperate to stop linesman blunders from happening.
Rather than dwell on her apparent hard luck, Krejcikova brought up a fifth match point, converting after three hours and 18 minutes with a backhand winner down the line.
“I always wanted to play a match like this, a challenging match where we’re both playing so well. Even if I lost today, I’m very proud of myself. Fighting, in life, it’s the most important thing,” said Krejcikova.
Both players made a nervy start to their maiden Grand Slam semi-final, with 17th seed Sakkari the first to hold serve in the fourth game as she took a 3-1 lead.
But Krejcikova picked up the next four, pulling 5-3 ahead with a sublime lob that left her serving for the set. The Czech was then broken to love as Sakkari rattled off eight points in a row to level at 5-5.
A routine hold from Krejcikova put the pressure back on Sakkari, who surrendered the set as her shot clipped the net and floated wide.
Sakkari, who took down last year’s runner-up Sofia Kenin and then reigning champion Iga Swiatek in the past two rounds, regrouped and raced 4-0 ahead in the second.
The Greek fended off a spirited comeback from Krejcikova to force a decider, Sakkari breaking for a 2-1 edge and saving a breakpoint in the next game to consolidate as the finish line crept ever closer.
Sakkari had a match point at 5-3, but the resilient Krejcikova stayed alive with a sweeping backhand volley and then broke back before moving 6-5 in front.
The Czech will look to become the seventh different French Open champion in as many years as the women’s French Open final begins on Saturday, June 12, at 11pm (AEST).