At this time last year, Barbora Krejčíková clinched her first major singles title at the French Open as an unseeded player and decided underdog.
Krejčíková herself expressed astonishment after defeating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 in the final in just her fifth Grand Slam appearance as a singles competitor.
Long considered a doubles specialist, Krejčíková has 12 career doubles titles, including four at Grand Slams. Before her ascent up the singles rankings, she won doubles titles alongside partner Kateřina Siniaková at the 2018 French Open and 2018 Wimbledon, eventually completing a singles-doubles sweep at the 2021 French Open.
“I can’t believe what just happened,” she said after the final match last June.
The Czech star now enters the 2022 French Open as the World No. 2, solidifying her meteoric rise from relative unknown to tour powerhouse.
While the 26-year-old’s French Open trophy came as a shock to the casual tennis viewer, she has been steadily building toward prominence since her time as a top-ranked junior.
After turning pro in 2014, Krejčíková enjoyed moderate success in doubles before reaching her first singles WTA final in 2017 and breaking into the top 150. That same year, Krejčíková’s coach, former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna, died of cancer. In her final words to Krejčíková, Novotna encouraged the up-and-comer to enjoy herself and try to win a Grand Slam.
Krejčíková has kept her late coach’s words close to her heart, telling reporters ahead of last year’s French Open run, “Every time I go on court, I step out of the court, I always think about her.”
From unseeded to French Open singles champion, Barbora Krejčíková won her first career Grand Slam singles title Saturday.NBC Sports | @Lexus pic.twitter.com/N1zSNSG0jt— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) June 13, 2021
From unseeded to French Open singles champion, Barbora Krejčíková won her first career Grand Slam singles title Saturday.NBC Sports | @Lexus pic.twitter.com/N1zSNSG0jt
In 2018, Krejčíková’s doubles career took off. She won two Grand Slams while slowly climbing the singles ranks and finally qualifying for the French Open, where she fell in the first round.
Two years later, Krejčíková qualified for the main draw of the Australian Open before getting bounced in the second round. Then, at the French Open, Krejčíková introduced herself on the singles world stage, advancing to the Round of 16 at Roland Garros and finishing the year ranked No. 65.
Krejčíková’s success carried over into her pivotal 2021 campaign, when she won her first-ever WTA singles championship in May, one day before beginning her run to the French Open title.
“What happened this season, it’s really hard to describe it. I mean, it’s just perfect. It was this amazing season and really my big breakthrough. I’m really glad that things went the way that they went,” Krejčíková told The New York Times last November.
Krejčíková’s game is filled with variety, making her somewhat of an unpredictable opponent. She relied on her shot selection and execution last year to advance past 17-seed Maria Sakkari in the semifinals and overcome Pavlyuchenkova in the championship match.
“I think the rise of Barbora has been pretty incredible over the last year and a half. She seems to elevate her game more and more. She has all the good tools to play,” former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka said at the start of the 2022 season. “She can play aggressive, she can mix it up. Very dangerous player.”
Now a consistent contender on the WTA tour, Krejčíková looks to defend her title in France and solidify her place atop the tennis world.
Clare Brennan is an Associate Editor at Just Women’s Sports.