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Home Sports French Open Champion Krejcikova Thanks Her Mentor, Novotna

French Open Champion Krejcikova Thanks Her Mentor, Novotna

There were rare moments of agitation, including one shout to her player box during Saturday’s final, but Stubbs is correct that Krejcikova’s calm, focused demeanor was the rule at Roland Garros. Her pacing and breathing between points were measured; her gaze quickly went back to her strings or the clay after a point was completed. But she also showed touching flashes of humanity: applauding Gauff’s and Sakkari’s winners at critical phases of both matches.

Her march to the final was nowhere near as smooth as it often looked. She felt overwhelmed before playing the American Sloane Stephens in the fourth round, crying before taking the court and speaking with her sports psychologist. She consulted her again before her victory over Sakkari and victory over Pavlyuchenkova. It was all new territory for Krejcikova, who had not been past the fourth round of a major tournament in singles before.

“I was a little bit panicking; I really wanted to win,” she said. “On the other hand, I knew that if I really want to win, I’m just going to put so much pressure on myself that it’s not going to happen. We had the conversation about this. She just told me just to go and enjoy. We spoke about how to talk to myself, what to do when I’m going to feel nervous on court, just be happy that I’m actually there, all of this. That I’m already in the finals, it’s a big achievement that nobody really expected, not even me. I didn’t expect it as well.”

What also helped was her experience in doubles. She and Siniakova also won their first Grand Slam final together, taking the title at the French Open in 2018 on the same center court where she won on Saturday.

Krejcikova thanked Novotna after that victory, too, and on Saturday she reached a much bigger audience with the same message and the same hand pointed to the sky. This time, she received the champion’s trophy from Navratilova, who grew up in the Czech Republic before emigrating to the United States and was close with Novotna.

Navratilova has shaped champions’ careers, too. It was at her suggestion that the future No. 1 Maria Sharapova, whom she had spotted at a Moscow clinic, moved to Florida with her father, Yuri, to pursue a tennis career. “It’s a small world, and you will touch many people along the way,” Navratilova said. But she also knows how long the odds are and how many prodigies, even with the right advice, do not make the transition to the highest level.

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