PARIS – The ball landing at Barbora Krejcikova’s feet on match point appeared to fall behind the baseline.
The linesman thought so and called the shot long. A TV replay confirmed this, and the unranked Krejcikova was so sure she raised her arms in triumph to celebrate a place in her first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros.
Chair umpire Pierre Bacchi disagrees. He reversed the call, triggering a new debate over the video replay and briefly delaying Krejcikova’s victory.
Tennis was spared an unfair result five points later when she hit a backhand winner to close the biggest win of her career. The Czech saved a match point in the middle of the final set and outlasted 17th seed of Greece, Maria Sakkari, 7-5, 4-6, 9-7.
“I’ve always wanted to play games like this,” Krejcikova said.
She must also like roller coasters. Her opponent on Saturday will be 29-year-old Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who also qualified for her first major final by beating non-seeded Tamara Zidansek 7-5, 6-3.
This was only the second time in the professional era that there were four female Grand Slam semi-finalists for the first time in a major tournament, and the first time since the 1978 Australian Open.
Krejcikova, a 33rd-ranked double major double champion, is playing singles for the fifth time in the main draw of a major tournament. No.31 seed Pavlyuchenkova, on the other hand, played in more majors before reaching a final – 52 – than any other woman.
A top 20 player as a teenager, Pavlyuchenkova was 0-6 in the major quarterfinals before finally overcoming that hurdle on Tuesday, and was more stable than the great Zidansek in the semifinals.
“I wanted it so badly that right now I’m not feeling anything,” Pavlyuchenkova told the crowd in French.
Equally unlikely is Krejcikova’s journey to the final.
“It sounds incredible,” she said. “I can’t believe it. It’s happening.
It seemed particularly unlikely with nine games in the third set, when Sakkari held match point. She admitted that she then became less aggressive.
“I was stressed out, starting to think I’m at a point of being in the final,” she said. “I guess this is a rookie mistake.”
Krejcikova erased the match point with a volley for a nervous winner, and 40 minutes later they were still playing.
Then came the real drama. With Krejcikova holding a match point in the last game, Sakkari hit a forehand near the baseline. Bacchi got down from his chair, took a look, qualified the shot and ordered the point to be replayed.
“He came over and he said to me ‘Here we go’ and I was like ‘No, no, no, no, no, no. Why ?’ She said with a chuckle. “But what can I do? I can’t change her decision. It’s okay; let’s go. Let’s try to win the next one.
A TV replay indicated that the ball was clearly long, but video review is not used at Roland Garros, where the balls generally leave clear marks on the clay.
Krejcikova kept her cool and celebrated some good times later after converting 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 enjoyable as the warm, cloudless weather. Zidansek, 85, who this week became the first Slovenian woman to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final, was the top player for much of the first set, moving well and hitting the most aggressive groundstrokes.
But Pavlyuchenkova won the most important points and Zidansek threw consecutive shaky serves into the net to lose the set.
Pavlyuchenkova’s groundstrokes provided more spice in the second set as she took a 4-1 lead. Her first sign of nervousness came when she committed two double faults, including a breaking point, to bring the score to 4-3, but she fought back and easily served the win.
“Tennis is such a mental sport,” she said. “That’s what’s really difficult with tennis.”
Zidansek could not but agree.
“A new situation for me, the semi-finals of a Grand Slam,” she said. “So, yeah, I was nervous. But who isn’t at this point? I was just trying to calm my nerves as best I could.
Pavlyuchenkova, who has won 12 touring titles, will climb back into the Top 20 next week for the first time since January 2018.
“She’s in the final,” Krejcikova said. “She must be playing well.”
The same goes for Krejcikova, who has won 11 straight games, including her first WTA singles title last month in Strasbourg. She is the eighth unranked female finalist at Roland Garros in the professional era, and the fourth in the past five years.
Protected from the late Grand Slam champion Jana Novotna, Krejcikova seeks to become the first Czech woman to win Roland Garros since Hana Mandlikova in 1981.
She also aims to become the first woman to win both doubles and singles at Roland Garros since Mary Pierce in 2000. She and Katerina Siniakova advanced to the semi-finals on Friday.