Krejcikova v Pavlyuchenkova: Where the match can be won

Join us on this tactical deep dive ahead of Saturday's women's final showdown

 - Simon Cambers

Russian No.31 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova takes on world No.33 Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic on Saturday for the Roland-Garros title.

In their first Grand Slam final and with so much at stake, nerves will play a part but here’s a tactical breakdown of the women’s final.

Who serves best could make the difference

Both Pavlyuchenkova and Krejcikova serve well and hit their spots. There’s very little to choose between them in terms of service stats.

Pavlyuchenkova has hit one more ace – at 22 to 21 – and her first serve percentage is higher, at 67 per cent to Krejcikova’s 60.

But the Czech has been winning 71 per cent of her points on first serve, compared to 66 per cent for the Russian.

Krejcikova has hit more double faults – 21 to 19 – but eight of them came in one match.

Bottom line is: the serve is a key factor for both and whoever serves best is likely to win.

Backhands are lethal for both women

Strategy will be important, as always, but both women are probably happier on their backhands than forehands, so it will be interesting to see if either changes things up, targeting the forehand more often than usual.

Krejcikova’s backhand down-the-line has been one of the shots of the tournament, devastatingly effective, opening up the court, even if she doesn’t go for a clean winner.

Pavlyuchenkova is equally aggressive but likes to go cross-court if she can.

Barbora Krejcikova, Roland-Garros 2021© Cédric Lecocq / FFT

Fatigue could be a factor

Krejcikova made her name first as a doubles player and that experience in playing for big titles at the end of Grand Slams could come in handy.

The Czech has been playing every day at Roland-Garros, in singles and doubles, and in her semi-final against Maria Sakkari, she looked exhausted in the second set, the burning sun seemingly taking its toll. She won her doubles semi-final alongside Katerina Siniakova with relative ease on Friday.

She recovered but how much will she have left in the tank? Pavlyuchenkova was also playing doubles but lost in the quarter-finals, giving her an extra day off, which could be significant in a final, where any extra freshness usually helps.

“Unfortunately or fortunately, I don't have doubles because we lost yesterday, big three-set match, which also took a lot of energy out of me,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “Wanted to be still in doubles because I kind of like these routines we had with Elena [Rybakina]. We always warmed up together, it was fun. But…maybe it's time to focus on the final.”

Nerves could decide things

As a junior world No 1, Pavlyuchenkova was tipped for big things in the women’s game but it has taken until her 52nd Grand Slam event to get past the quarter-finals, expectations and pressure proving difficult to handle over the years.

Krejcikova looked almost frozen with fear at times in her win over Maria Sakkari and whoever handles the occasion the best will surely come out on top.

The 25-year-old Czech says she’s planning to try to enjoy it, explaining she never expected to get this far, while Pavlyuchenkova says the work she’s been doing with a sports psychologist should help her on the biggest occasions. Something’s got to give and whoever keeps their equilibrium best will probably take the title.