'Really miss her': Krejcikova's emotional tribute after French Open win

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Pictured here, a teary Barbora Krejcikova holds the French Open trophy aloft.
Barbora Krejcikova was overcome with emotion after winning her maiden grand slam singles title. Pic: Getty

Czech tennis star Barbora Krejcikova has paid a beautiful tribute to her late friend and tennis mentor Jana Novotna after claiming her first grand slam singles title by beating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the women's final at Roland Garros.

Krejcikova completed her unlikely journey from supposed doubles 'specialist' and singles struggler to unseeded grand slam champion as she downed the Russian, 6-1 2-6 6-4 in Saturday's Paris showdown.

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The World No.33 looked to the skies in honour of Wimbledon champion Novotna, after clinching her breakthrough singles grand slam title in three sets.

Krejcikova spoke of the impact that Novotna - who died of cancer aged 49 in 2017 - had on her career and how much she missed her late friend.

"When Jana was passing away, pretty much her last words to me were 'just enjoy, and just try to win a grand slam'," she said.

"I know that from somewhere, she's looking after me from up there.

"She was such an inspiration for me. I just really miss her but I hope she's happy right now - I'm extremely happy."

The 25-year-old credited her late friend as the reason why she's been this successful in the sport.

"We just had a really special bond and when I found out that she was sick, I just felt at the end of her life I have to be there.

"My parents just were telling me not to go, because they've seen how it's actually ruining me. But I felt like I have to go and support her, as she had supported me.

"That's why she's looking after me right now.

"That's actually why I have this many grand slams [three mixed, two women's doubles and now a singles] because she's just from somewhere above looking after me. She wants me to win."

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Krejcikova, the first Czech woman to lift the French Open title since Hana Mandlikova 40 years ago, was also thrilled to collect the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen from another of her heroines, Czech-born legend Martina Navratilova.

Krejcikova within sight of historic double

And her historic weekend could get even sweeter on Sunday when she seeks her third grand slam women's title with partner Katerina Siniakova, in a final against last year's singles champion Iga Swiatek and Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

No woman has completed the singles-doubles set at Roland Garros since home favourite Mary Pierce in 2000.

Playing in only her fifth main draw singles, having 15 times failed to get through qualifying, Krejcikova eventually took control of a see-saw contest against Pavlyuchenkova, who needed treatment for a leg injury that she later revealed had been troubling her all tournament.

Pavlyuchenkova, hoping to complete her own tortuous journey from wunderkind to 29-year-old champion in her 52nd grand slam, picked up a thigh problem, connected to longer-standing left knee issues, at the end of her victorious second set.

Krejcikova, ranked 115 when she came to Roland Garros nine months ago for the 2020 edition, regrouped brilliantly, reprising her masterful first-set form.

Seen here, Barbora Krejcikova looks to the skies after her French Open triumph.
Barbora Krejcikova paid tribute to her late friend and mentor Jana Novotna after her French Open triumph. Pic: Getty

The pace and angles of her elegant groundstrokes allowed Pavlyuchenkova no rhythm and it was hard to imagine it was the same woman who had suffered a tearful panic attack before her last-16 match against Sloane Stephens, thinking she was not good enough.

Yet Krejcikova's sports psychologist put her in the perfect frame of mind this time.

"We spoke about it a lot and I just knew that when I'm going to enter the court, I'm just not going to be panicking anymore.

"It's something I have always dreamed about. I was just telling myself it would be really nice if I can get a grand slam in women's doubles, mixed and singles.

"Now it's happening. I cannot believe it."

Pavlyuchenkova was much more aggressive in the second set but when serving on set point at 5-1, she jarred her left leg during a rally.

She needed a medical timeout after saving that game and resumed to seal the set, but the knee trouble had taken its toll.

"In the third set during the (third round Aryna) Sabalenka match, I said to myself, 'if I win this, I'm going to cry'," she said.

"It's such a shame, I play so good, but my body says this to me, 'I don't want to continue'."

She battled on and saved two match points at 5-4 and another when Krejcikova double faulted on the verge of victory but she sealed victory when the Russian's backhand flew long.

with AAP

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