Guarachi, Krawczyk take college route to Slam success

First-time Grand Slam finalists will meet the defending champions in the women's doubles final on Sunday.

 - Alex Sharp

Roland-Garros 2020 has produced a plethora of ‘firsts’ and the women’s doubles final will be no exception.

No.14 seeds Alexa Guarachi and Desirae Krawczyk combined to book their maiden ticket into a Grand Slam championship match on Friday.

The Chilean-American duo were 2-5 down in the opener before prevailing 7-6(5), 1-6, 6-4 past singles finalist sensation Iga Swiatek alongside Nicole Melichar.

To scribe their names onto the roll of honour they’ll have to topple the defending champions Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic on Sunday.

Guarachi, who has battled back from a career-threatening ACL injury five years ago, is a product of the US college tennis system and so is her partner Krawczyk.

The likes of US Open semi-finalist Jennifer Brady and Roland-Garros quarter-finalist Danielle Collins have also taken the college tennis route, emphasising the benefits of that path to the top.

“I think there are a ton of us that are rising in the rankings and doing well. For me personally college was the perfect route, especially in doubles,” explained the 26-year-old Krawczyk, who played for Arizona State University.

“I learned so much, how to really be a team player, how to enjoy myself out there. I think it’s definitely helped me raise my level and to be able to play with different players.”

The signs for success in Paris were there last month. An early exit at the US Open prompted a last-minute trip to Turkey, where the duo lifted the trophy on the clay in Istanbul to propel themselves into title contention in the French capital.

“That week definitely got us in the groove for Roland-Garros,” stated the doubles world No.38 Krawczyk. “We were down early on in the second round and just went for it, wanted to go out on a bang. Since then everything has been progressing match by match.”

Guarachi, who played for University of Alabama, was still in a “pinch me moment” following the last match point against Swiatek and Melichar.

“I honestly didn’t believe it was real,” said Guarachi, who could become Chile’s first women’s doubles Grand Slam champion.

“It was such a back and forth match, we had to fight so hard. I was so in the moment at match point that I didn’t think about the score. It’s a dream come true, I’m so honoured and so excited to reach a Slam final.

“It’s an amazing opportunity, I feel very lucky. I’m going to go all I can in the final and do it for the people of Chile especially.”

Guarachi and Krawczyk shook up the draw by taking out top seeds Hsieh Su-Wei and Barbora Strycova earlier in the week. 

“We have such a strong communication on the court and we’re pretty close friends off the court too. We are able to figure things out when it’s not going well and in general positivity is big in our personalities,” added Guarachi, hailing their team spirit.

“Our games complement each other and we both like to play aggressive. We always believe we are in the match no matter the scoreline.”

For Krawczyk, the emotions poured out back in the locker room, realising their accomplishment.

Alexa Guarachi, Desirae Krawczyk, Roland Garros 2020, doubles semi-finals© Clément Mahoudeau/FFT

“Every player dreams of becoming a Grand Slam champion. After the match today, it hit me, I just cried,” she revealed.

“For us as a team, we’re the underdogs, it’s our first Slam final. It’s great to experience this with a friend and we have to go out there and enjoy it, bring all of our energy.”

Earlier on Friday the reigning champions Babos and Mladenovic were pushed to the limit by fourth-seeded Czechs Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova. 

The Australian Open winners continued their title defence with a 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, converting their sixth match point in a catalogue of enthralling rallies at the conclusion.

“I think we have very complementary games. We bring together our qualities as singles players, but also doubles players,” reflected home charge Mladenovic, highlighting their cohesion.

“There is inevitably also this connection, this chemistry that we have between us off the court, which is also our strength on the court compared to all the management of the matches. We know each other by heart, really. We're best friends in everyday life. It helps enormously for understanding each other.

“Apart from that, what predominates is our strength, our game. We have big strengths in singles and in doubles. When you can put them in place, it gives those results. It's true that it's great.”