As Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova prepares to face Barbora Krejčíková on Court Phillipe-Chatrier tomorrow, none could have possibly imagined that these two players would be contending for a Grand Slam title.
Indeed, in the build-up to the tournament, all eyes were on other potential storylines. Could Serena Williams equal Margaret Court’s major record? Could Iga Świątek defend a French Open title for the first time in 14 years? Or could Ashleigh Barty continue her dominance as the world’s number one ranked player to triumph for a second time at Roland-Garros?
As women’s majors have so often proved in recent years, nothing is predictable. There have been injuries, upsets and several outstanding matches, but now only two remain.
Pavlyuchenkova is seeded 31st and hadn’t reached further than the quarter-finals of a major tournament before this event.
After seeing off both Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka in the earlier rounds, the Russian finally overcame her last eight demons by beating Elina Rybakina in a three-set epic.
This was followed by a composed and measured semi-final performance against Tamara Zidanšek, where 15-years at the top of the women’s game helped the 29-year-old hold her nerve in the biggest match of her career to date.
It’s this experience that Pavlyuchenkova will hope to draw on again in the final, against her unseeded opponent, who had never progressed beyond the second round prior to this tournament.
Krejčíková came through a thrilling three-hour semi-final against Greece’s Maria Sakkari yesterday, saving a match point in the third set, before eventually winning the decider 9-7.
Sakkari had been favourite heading into the contest, having beaten defending champion Świątek in the previous round, but Krejčíková proved she could cope with the big occasion.
It’s not the first time the Czech has shown her mental resilience in this competition. Playing against Coco Gauff in the first set of the quarter-final, the 25-year-old saved five set points and eventually won the opener in a tie-break.
The world number 33 has just one WTA title to her name so far but has looked far better than that record may suggest.
It’s a hard match to call on paper, especially given how unpredictable this tournament has proven to be. The bookies have Krejčíková as a narrow favourite, however, most likely because of the nature of her win over Sakkari.
In truth, though, it’s almost impossible to separate the two players. In this way, tomorrow’s final promises to be a classic, irrespective of the victor.