In one of the longest title matches of the year, Barbora © found a way to upset World No 1 Iga Swiatek to pocket the AGEL Open 2022 title in Ostrava on Sunday in front of a packed home crowd.
I was just telling myself to keep going. She's a great champion. She's a great player, so I was expecting that she's not going to give it to me easy. So I was just like, 'OK, keep going. It's going to be fine. You're going to you're going to get your chance. You're going to make it’, so that was my inner voice. Barbora Krejcikova
It was a high-quality, thrilling, contest in which the Czech had to come from a set down to score her first win over Swiatek, the World No 1 who suffered her first defeat in a final this year.
Krejcikova’s remarkable tenacity and persistence paid dividends after 3 hours and 16 minutes of enthralling play as she notched up her 5-7 7-6(4) 6-3 triumph to claim the title in her homeland of the Czech Republic.
“It was a big match, I think, for both sides,” she said afterwards. “We played amazingly.
“We gave an amazing show to the fans, so I’m really happy with that, and with the way I have performed.
“It’s always great to be a winner in your home country.
“It’s a huge victory. It’s one of the biggest matches that I ever played.
“The atmosphere was just very energetic, and very unbelievable, for both sides. It’s really one of the top matches that, I think, I ever played in my life.”
It certainly kept the fans, both Czech and Polish, on the edge of their seats as Swiatek, who went into the match with a 2-0 record over Krejcikova, built a 5-1 lead in the first set, only for the 26-year old to fight back and level the set 5 games all.
Swiatek snuffed out any further come-back hopes, though, by clinching the opener set after nearly 80 minutes.
In the second, Krejcikova broke Swiatek’s serve for a 3rd time in the first game to go up an early break, but found herself being pegged back at 4-4.
The 21-year old Pole was twice a game away from victory, while she was also just 2 points from an 8th title of the season with Krejcikova serving at 30-30 in the 12th game, but coming through that hold, though, was the springboard the Czech needed to force the decider.
Krejcikova won the first 4 points of the tiebreak, and 6 of the first 7, giving her more than enough of a cushion when Swiatek erased her first 3 set points.
“I was just telling myself to keep going,” the Czech said. “She’s a great champion. She’s a great player, so I was expecting that she’s not going to give it to me easy.
“So I was just like, ‘OK, keep going. It’s going to be fine. You’re going to you’re going to get your chance. You’re going to make it’, so that was my inner voice.”
Neither faced break point over the first 7 games of the final set, and Krejcikova struck first with a love break to serve for the match.
Having lost just 2 points on serve up until then, the 2021 Roland Garros champion was forced to find her best form to seal her 5th career Hologic WTA Tour title as Swiatek played inspired tennis to save 5 championship points, but a 7th ace finally handed the Czech the championship.
“Iga, you’ve been ruling the whole season, you’ve been beating everybody on the tour, so I’m really sorry for today, but I’m really glad that I beat you,” Krejcikova told Swiatek with a smile at the presentation ceremony. “It was an amazing match.
“I think we both gave our all. Thank you for bringing the best out of me today.”
It took a while for Swiatek, the reigning French and US Open champion, to get her emotions under control as the tears flowed after suffering just her second career defeat in 12 tour-level singles finals, the first in 3 years and 10 of which she had won without the loss of a set.
She later admitted she was ‘too emotional’ after a long tournament, and praised Krejcikova for her back-to-back tournament victories.
Despite the defeat, the World No 1 still takes home £52,000 for her efforts in the Czech Republic, and confirmed that all of this is pledged towards mental health charities in Poland.
“Tomorrow is the world mental health day,” she said. “I will donate all the money earned in this tournament to non-profit organisations in Poland dealing with this topic.
“I really wanted to play well here, to have a big amount of money to donate, and I’m pretty happy that I could do that.
“I really want to spread awareness, and let people know that they can use the help if they need it, or help others if they have resources. I’m pretty happy to use my position that way.”
It was Krejcikova’s second 3-hour plus victory in as many weeks, having won a 3-hour, 23-minute semi-final match against Belinda Bencic last week en route to the title in Tallinn, and the resurgent Czech is now on a 10-match winning run.
“I had a really tough two weeks, but two very nice trophies at the end,” Krejcikova said. “My game is improving and I’m really happy with that.
“I’m working very hard every day to get better every single time.
“I’m just very happy that things are clicking together and improving and and I can play the biggest matches with the biggest players.”
After the thrilling match that equalled Angelique Kerber’s triumph over Kaja Juvan in Strasbourg, France in May as the longest championship match of 2022 so far, Swiatek is now expected to take part in the San Diego Open, with her first match scheduled for Thursday.
Krejcikova, due to be the No 1 seed at the Transylvania Open WTA 250 in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, this week, has pulled out citing a left wrist injury.
“Unfortunately after so much tennis in the last 2 weeks my wrist injury will not allow me to play Cluj-Napoca,” Krejcikova said. ”I am very disappointed as I was very much looking forward to playing the event.
Krejcikova’s place in the main draw of the Transylvania Open is taken by No 9 seed Lucia Bronzetti, while lucky loser Oceane Dodin takes Bronzetti’s position, and will play Harriet Dart.
“Unfortunately, Barbora Krejcikova had to withdraw from the tournament, due to a left wrist injury,” a tournament statement said. “Speedy recovery, Barbora!”
In the doubles final at Ostrava, Americans Caty McNally & Alycia Parks won their first title as a team when they beat No 3 seeds Erin Routliffe & Alicja Rosolska, 6-3 6-2, in Sunday’s final
Both had excellent singles runs in Ostrava, topping the week with the doubles hardware.
As an on-site doubles pair, they were one of the last teams accepted into the draw, and were unseeded, but the Americans beat 3 seeded teams in 4 matches: In the quarter-finals, they upset No 1 seeds Desirae Krawczyk & Demi Schuurs, and came from a set down in their semi-final win over No 4 seeds Kirsten Flipkens & Laura Siegemund.
“I was heading out to practice, maybe one of the first days we were here, and Alycia waved at me, but I didn’t think she was, so I just kept walking,” McNally recalled after the match. “She ran after me, and she’s, like, ‘You wanna play doubles?’ I was, like, ‘You know, it kind of depends on how I do in singles, but yeah, we can sign up together. Let’s see. Let’s see if we get in’.
“We end up getting in. We both had really great weeks in singles and it’s been a great week in doubles winning the title. For the first time playing together, I think we gelled pretty well.”
It is Parks’ first WTA title of any kind and McNally’s 6th in doubles, having reached 4 finals with 3 different partners this year, and also winning St Petersburg with Anna Kalinskaya in February.
In singles, both Americans qualified for the WTA 500 event and reached the quarter-finals.