Patient Pavlyuchenkova reaches French Open final
Long regarded as a top player, the Russian has never before made it to the final of a grand slam
Paris — Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova held steady to beat an erratic Tamara Zidansek in straight sets on Thursday and reach the French Open final in her 52nd grand slam.
The 29-year-old’s 7-5 6-3 win made her the woman with the most attempts needed to reach the final of one of the four majors. It was reward for her patience throughout a career that has earned her 12 titles but none on the biggest of stages, and also for her calmness against a player who blew hot and cold.
Pavlyuchenkova, the oldest of the four first-time semi-finalists in Paris, will play 17th-seed Maria Sakkari of Greece or the unseeded Czech Barbora Krejcikova in Saturday’s final.
“I am so tired and so happy, it is very emotional,” Pavlyuchenkova said on a sunlit Court Philippe Chatrier. “It was difficult, I tried to fight very hard and to work on the tactical side. It is important to stay focused and in the right zone for the final on Saturday.”
While 31st-seed Pavlyuchenkova had reached the quarterfinals at six grand slams, Zidansek had managed only three match wins at grand slams before arriving in Paris. Yet the 23-year-old has flourished in Paris after putting out former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu in round one.
Her destructive forehand worked well initially and she broke Pavlyuchenkova’s opening service game before holding to love. But she missed a smash at 2-1 as Pavlyuchenkova got back on level terms and the Russian then broke for a 5-3 lead.
Zidansek produced an improvised lob volley and crunching forehand winners to break back and was 15-40 when Pavlyuchenkova served at 5-5 but could not convert the chance.
Pavlyuchenkova absorbed Zidansek’s best shots and was gifted the first set with a double-fault. The Russian forged 4-1 ahead in the second set and snuffed out an attempted Zidansek comeback, clinching victory when her opponent blazed a backhand wide, her 33rd unforced error.
There was little by way of celebration for Pavlyuchenkova who looked relived more than anything as she became the first Russian woman to reach a grand slam final since Maria Sharapova lost to Serena Williams at the 2015 Australian Open.
She also surpassed Roberta Vinci, who took 44 grand slam attempts before reaching the 2015 US Open final.
“She was able to control the match tactically,” former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli, summarising for ITV Sport, said. “Not everyone can win their first grand slam at 19 or 20 years of age. If she can grab the moment and make that title hers she will deserve it entirely.”
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