PARIS: Czech Barbora Krejcikova reached the French Open final as she beat Greek 17th seed Maria Sakkari 7-5 4-6 9-7 in a nail-biting, see-saw contest yesterday.
The world number 33 struggled with nerves throughout but eventually proved more consistent than Sakkari, who got tight when she served for the match at 5-4 in the third set.
Krejcikova will face Russian 31st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who will also be making her maiden appearance in a major singles final, tomorrow.
She will be looking to emulate fellow Czech Hana Mandlikova, who won the title at Roland Garros in 1981.
With both Sakkari and Krejcikova playing in their first Grand Slam semi-final, the match got off to a shaky start.
Sakkari was the first to hold to open a 3-1 lead but her advantage was shortlived. Krejcikova, who came into the semi-final on a 10-match winning streak after claiming the title in Strasbourg last month, rallied back as Sakkari lost her way in the sixth game.
Krejcikova then broke for 5-3 with a superb lob as she retrieved a drop shot, but dropped serve straight after with a double fault on game point.
She sealed the opening set with yet another break, however, when Sakkari’s crosscourt forehand went wide after clipping the net cord.
Sakkari raced to a 4-0 lead in the second set but Krejcikova cancelled out one of the two breaks of serve to narrow the deficit to 3-4, only for the Greek to serve it out, letting out a huge scream out as she sent the contest into a decider.
Sakkari broke in the first game and managed to hold after conceding five breaks of serve in the first two sets.
Krejcikova saved a match point on her serve at 3-5, forcing Sakkari to serve for the match.
The Greek fell 0-30 behind after two unforced errors before saving a break point with a sizzling crosscourt backhand winner.
She was broken, however, when she sent a backhand into the net to allow Krejcikova to level for 5-5.
Serving at 6-7, Sakkari saved three match points. Krejcikova thought she had it in the bag on her fourth match point at 7-8 when Sakkari’s forehand was called long, only for the chair umpire to rule it was in.
On the fifth, however, Krejcikova ended the contest with a backhand winner after three hours and 18 minutes.
Earlier, Pavlyuchenkova held steady to beat an erratic Tamara Zidansek in straight sets and reach the French Open final at her 52nd Grand Slam tournament.
The 29-year-old’s 7-5 6-3 win made her the woman with the most attempts ever needed to reach the final of one of the sport’s four majors.