Barbora Krejcikova in 2021: A masterful year, with a maiden singles Grand Slam

The Czech defied all predictions by winning her first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros this year. At 25, she rocketed up the top 50 to finish 2021 ranked fifth in the world

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What a year! Better known for her results in doubles than in singles at the beginning of the season, Barbora Krejcikova exploded at the highest level at the age of 25. In 2020, she created a surprise by reaching the second week of the French Open as the world No 114 – eventually allowing her to finally break into the top 100 after several years of trying and to gain the confidence she was missing.

This year, the Czech has moved into a whole new dimension by entering the elite top 10. With three titles, including her first singles Grand Slam at the age of 25, Krejcikova is one of the players of 2021. The WTA has named her the most improved player of the year and the best team of the year for her doubles results with Katerina Siniakova.

  • Krejcikova’s ranking at the end of 2020: 65 (No. 7 in doubles)
  • Krejcikova’s ranking at the end of 2021: 5 (No. 2 in doubles)
  • Krejcikova’s win/loss in 2021: 45 / 18
  • Titles: 3 (5 in doubles and 1 in mixed doubles)

Krejcikova’s best performance: A historic double at Roland-Garros

In her fifth Grand Slam appearance, Barbora Krejcikova achieved a rare feat by becoming the seventh player to complete the singles-doubles double at Roland Garros – the first since Mary Pierce in 2000. She joins a very closed and prestigious circle composed of Pierce, Billie Jean King, Margaret Smith Court, Chris Evert, Virginia Ruzici and Martina Navratilova.

The day after her first Grand Slam singles title over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, she returned to Court Philippe-Chatrier to win alongside Katerina Siniakova. The Czech pair lifted their third Grand Slam title together – after Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2018.

As Krejcikova was also competing in mixed doubles, she played 15 matches over her entire Paris fortnight – a marathon schedule.

Barbora Krejcikova, Roland-Garros 2021
Barbora Krejcikova, the 2021 Roland-Garros women’s singles champion

Krejcikova’s best Grand Slam result: A title at Roland-Garros and a maiden US Open quarter-final

Coming into Roland-Garros, Krejcikova was better known for her doubles results than her singles (world No 1 in 2018, two Grand Slam titles with Siniakova and three in mixed doubles). As the tournament progressed, the player then ranked 33rd in the world lost her status as a doubles specialist by revealing her singles potential.

The Brno native impressed with her tactical sense, her mastery of angles and her game full of variations. Her 6-3, 6-2 third-round win over No 5 seed Elina Svitolina was the catalyst. It was her second career win over a top 10 player, following her victory over Sofia Kenin in Rome.

Former Grand Slam winner Sloane Stephens, American youngster Coco Gauff, powerful Maria Sakkari, and finally the experienced Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the final all capitulated. Krejcikova even saved a match point against Sakkari in the semi-finals to win after a three-hour battle (7-5, 4-6, 9-7).

Krejcikova was already familiar with Flushing Meadows and its buzzing atmosphere, but she had never experienced it from the inside during the fortnight. After five failures in qualifying, she arrived this year through the front door and with the label of top seed and Grand Slam winner attached to her. The pressure could have been too much for her, but she made it to the quarter-finals – an impressive result for her first main draw entry there. After suffering breathing problems and abdominal pain at the end of the second set against Garbiñe Muguruza in the round of 16, she drew on her reserves to beat the Spaniard (6-3, 7-6[4]). In the next round, though, she was no match for the power of world No 2 Aryna Sabalenka (6-1, 6-4).

Krejcikova’s best moment of the season: 70 days of victory with Olympic gold at the end

In the course of three months, Krejcikova won more than perhaps she ever expected to over her entire career. From 24 May, the date of her entry into the competition in Strasbourg, and 1 August, the day of her Olympic title, the Czech woman piled up success after success. She opened her record in France by defeating Sorana Cirstea in the final (6-3, 6-3) of the WTA 250 in Strasbourg. She followed that up with the Roland-Garros title – meaning she was on a winning streak of 12 matches.

After a stint on grass at Wimbledon, where she reached the second week, beaten by eventual winner Ash Barty, she triumphed at home in Prague without dropping a set in the tournament.

When she flew to Tokyo, her goal was to bring home Olympic gold in doubles with Katerina Siniakova – and she didn’t miss a beat. Despite her exit in the third round of the singles against future winner Belinda Bencic, she got her revenge in the final by winning in two sets (7-5, 6-1) against the Swiss pair of Bencic and Viktorija Golubic.

Krejcikova’s worst moment of the season: No singles wins at the WTA Finals

Krejcikova made her debut at the year-end WTA Finals in Guadalajara. But the warm Mexican weather did not bring her luck as she clocked up three defeats in three matches. Anett Kontaveit, Garbiñe Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova took turns dominating her in the group stage.

She even lost her last two matches when she was leading by a set. Krejcikova has been so solid throughout the season in the long matches (two losses in 15 three-set matches), but she stalled badly. Her two defeats in the Billie Jean King Cup (against Kerber and Bencic) before her last tournament of the year were the beginning of a slump.

However, she was able to mitigate the disappointment in doubles with her partner Siniakova – winning the WTA Finals and finishing the tournament undefeated.

Krejcikova off the court: A tribute to Jana Novotna and a moving speech

Krejcikova dedicated her Roland-Garros title to her compatriot and former coach Jana Novotna, who passed away in 2017. The former world No 2, who won Wimbledon in 1998, told her to try to win a Grand Slam, Krejcikova revealed during the trophy ceremony. “I miss her a lot. I hope she is happy now.”

Krejcikova also showed her composure and gift for commanding attention after winning the WTA Finals with Siniakova and dedicating it to her nation’s independence. It was a speech that moved Martina Navratilova – who defected from Czechoslovakia – to tears. It was also striking in the light of Peng Shuai’s disappearance, the censorship of her words on social media, and the Chinese government’s failure to offer any guarantees about her safety.

“Today is a really special day for the Czech Republic and also our Slovak friends. We call this day the Velvet Revolution,” Krejcikova explained to her audience.

“On November 17 1989, Czechs and Slovaks had been one nation. We had very brave Czechoslovakian students and citizens. They went outside to the streets and they had been demonstrating against the non-democratic regime we had then.”

“Because of them…” she paused. “Thanks to them and their sacrifice, my generation can live in a beautiful country back home. We can live without any restrictions and with the freedom. So everybody understands what was happening back then.”

Krejcikova by Krejcikova : ‘I fulfilled all my dreams’

“I always felt that I actually had the game,” Barbora Krejcikova said in conversation with Tennis Majors’ Simon Cambers. “When I was practising with all the top girls, I thought I was playing well with them. I think it just took me a little more time to organise my game and just find really my weapons. I think that’s why it took me longer. “

I enjoy the process maybe more than I did a year ago when I always like wanted to get to top 100.

Barbora Krejcikova

“I just think that I am maybe more calm and I just enjoy it. I enjoy the process maybe more than I did a year ago when I always like wanted to get to top 100 and I couldn’t really make it. It was really difficult times there. Now, after achieving all the dreams, it’s time to just go and really enjoy and play tennis and do what I love.”

Tennis Majors’ assessment: An incredible – and atypical – rise to the top

We won’t lie to you, we didn’t see it coming. Barbora Krejcikova surprised observers by winning the French Open and finishing the year ranked fifth in the world. The 25-year-old Czech has exploded onto the scene and has solid doubles experience to draw on – exactly what she did to withstand the pressure on the way to her French Open title and to get out of tight spots.

It remains to be seen how she manages her doubles schedule with her singles goals over a full season. Playing both will perhaps be more complicated. But when we see her express herself so well in doubles, how can we not be delighted to see a top five player learn from and enjoy a discipline so often neglected by the best?

Despite her atypical trajectory, Krejcikova has all the weapons to remain at the top. A complete player, always well positioned, she feels the game and uses the angles of the court and the variations wonderfully. If she can keep her passion for the game intact, she could hit the Grand Slam circuit with a vengeance.

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