PARIS — Two years ago at the French Open, Barbora Krejcikova arrived relatively unknown and relatively unaccomplished — and left with championships in both singles and doubles, something no woman had done at Roland Garros in more than 20 years.
A year ago at the French Open, Krejcikova came in after three months off because of an elbow injury and her title defence in singles ended with a first-round loss, only the third ever by the previous year’s champion in more than a half-century of the Open era.
And then her title defence in doubles ended before that event began thanks to a positive test for COVID-19, which hit her so hard she didn’t get out of bed for four days.
As Krejcikova prepared to return to action in Paris on Tuesday, facing Lesia Tsurenko at Court 7, this much was clear in her mind: She does not want to dwell on what happened in Paris either of the past two years.
“It all happened, but I’m definitely not thinking about it anymore,” Krejcikova said in an interview with The Associated Press. “What happened last year, happened last year. What happened two years ago, happened two years ago. Now I’m living in the present and I’m here.”
That she would want to forget her 2022 trip to Paris, pretend it never happened, both because of the quick defeat and because of the illness? That makes sense. That’s absolutely relatable.
That she would harbour a similar sentiment about 2021 when she produced the most triumphant two weeks of her professional life? Hmmm.
When that question was put to the 27-year-old from the Czech Republic, she reconsidered. OK, there are some good vibes that come back and she is willing to enjoy.
“Definitely every time I come here, and every time I step into this stadium, I always smile, because I feel really good here,” she said with a grin.
“What happened two years ago? I just never actually thought this could happen. As a little kid, you have this dream: You see players playing the big tournaments and they’re winning them, and you’re thinking, ‘Maybe one day? Or maybe not? Should I go to school? Should I not?’ And then it actually came true. Out of nowhere. Unexpected,” Krejcikova said. “It’s very nice that I can say that I’m a Grand Slam champion.”
She rose as high as No. 2 in the WTA rankings and is currently 13th. While the names on everyone’s lips as the elite of women’s tennis this season are Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina, Krejcikova considers herself someone not to be forgotten.
“I feel,” she said, “that I’m part of the players that are really close to them.”
Krejcikova proved that at a hard-court tournament in Dubai in February when she took the title by beating the top three women in the rankings — No. 1 Swiatek, No. 2 Sabalenka and No. 3 Jessica Pegula — along with another Top 10 opponent, Daria Kasatkina, and another Grand Slam champion, two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova.
That provided a boost of confidence.
But only briefly.
And the way she described that week-in, week-out tour life offers some insight into why she might be a tad conflicted about focusing too much on what happened in 2021 and 2022 at the French Open.
“The next week, you play another tournament, and the week in Dubai is already in the past. It’s not like you have a lot of time to actually celebrate it and actually enjoy it and feel good about it, because the next week you can lose,” Krejcikova said with a sigh. “Then you feel more bitter than sweet, because it just goes on every single week. You don’t have time to process what happened. It just goes on and on. We’re like robots — next one and next one and next one. It’s a constant battle of positive and negative emotions.”