Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova held off Tamara Zidansek 7-5, 6-3 in the Roland Garros semifinal, becoming the first woman to play more than 50 majors before reaching her first final. She made her Grand Slam debut as a 15-year-old wildcard at 2007 Wimbledon but lost to Daniela Hantuchova in the opening round. This tournament marks her 52nd Grand Slam main draw. With many top seeds suffering shock defeats and some pulling out of the tournament owing to injuries, this could be the perfect opportunity for Pavlyuchenkova to win her maiden Grand Slam title.
“I had my own long special road,” Pavlyuchenkova said in her post-match press conference. “Everybody has different ways. I don’t know, I’m just happy I’m in the final. Trying to enjoy. I think about [winning a Grand Slam tournament] all the time. Been thinking about it since I was a junior, since I was a little kid, since I started playing tennis. That’s what you’re playing for. That’s what you want. It’s been there in my head forever.”
Pavlyuchenkova also ends a six-year drought for her country in reaching a Grand Slam final. The last player to do so was Maria Sharapova, who reached the 2015 Australian Open final, but lost it to Serena Williams. This weekend, she will be seeking her first title since Strasbourg 2018.
“I would love to go further and to get more,” the Russian stated. “I’m happy, but I’m still focused and I feel like I can do better maybe. That’s what I want at least. Definitely trying to soak this in and enjoy as much as possible this very special moment for me.”
Earlier, Pavlyuchenkova recovered from a slow start to lead 5-3. But when she served for the first set at 5-3, Zidansek fought back and impressively broke her. At 6-5, the Slovenian gifted the Russian her service game, none more than a double-fault at a crucial juncture.
The second set was a bit of a roller-coaster. Three times Pavlyuchenkova went up a break, but twice, Zidansek pegged her back. However, the Russian held her nerve to eventually see out the set and the match.
“Definitely it was a bit tougher because you think, ‘Okay, I’m ranked higher, whatever,'” said Pavlyuchenkova. “For both of us, it was the first semifinal. It definitely was a lot of mental game going on there, for sure.”
“Playing that last game I was serving for [the match], I was totally in my zone, focusing. I’m here right now. I know what I have to do. At the end of the day, I tried to stay in the match every point. I had my tactic, I knew what I had to do. So just the discipline. I was trying to follow the discipline simply.”