Barbora Krejcikova became the first Czech woman in 40 years to reach 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 at Roland Garros in Paris on Thursday.
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, on Saturday. She will be looking to emulate Hana Mandlikova, who won the title at Roland Garros in 1981.
Pavlyuchenkova beat world No. 85 Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia 7-5, 6-3 to reach a first Grand Slam final at a record 52nd attempt at Roland Garros.
The 29-year-old Russian, a quarte-finalist in Paris a decade ago, became the first woman to play more than 50 majors before making her first final, breaking the previous mark of 44 set by 2015 U.S. Open runner-up Roberta Vinci.
“I am so tired and so happy, it is very emotional,” said Pavlyuchenkova. “It was difficult, I tried to fight very hard and to work on the tactical side. It is important to stay focused and in the right zone for the final on Saturday.”
The 31st seed is a former junior world No. 1 and Roland Garros girls’ singles finalist in 2006.
Zidansek will break into the world’s top 50 on Monday following her semi-final run at the French Open and will leave Paris with the confidence that she can compete against the top players on the biggest stage.
“I’ve learned that I can play good against top players and that I can play good at tournaments like this,” Zidansek told reporters. “I’m just going to try to take it all in and prepare for the next tournaments.
“The fact that I managed to play this well, got this far, just shows me that I can play at the big stage.”