Paris: Tour veteran Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia advanced to her first Grand Slam final by beating unseeded Tamara Zidansek at the French Open on Thursday, 7-5, 6-3.
The 29-year-old Pavlyuchenkova, seeded 31st, is playing in her 52nd major tournament and her 14th French Open. She had been 0-6 in major quarterfinals before finally surmounting that hurdle on Tuesday and was steadier than the big-swinging Zidansek in their semifinal.
It was only the second time in the professional era that there were four first-time Grand Slam women semifinalists at a major tournament and the first time since the 1978 Australian Open. Even so, the quality of play in the first match was mostly as good as the warm and cloudless weather. The 85th-ranked Zidansek, who this week became the first Slovenian woman to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal, was the better player for much of the first set, moving well and hitting the more aggressive groundstrokes.
But the consistent Pavlyuchenkova won the most important points, and Zidansek dumped consecutive shaky serves into the net to lose the set. Pavlyuchenkova served well, and in the second set her groundstrokes carried more sting as she raced to a 4-1 lead. Her first sign of nerves came as she double-faulted twice, including on break point, to make it 4-3, but she broke back and easily served out the victory.
Pavlyuchenkova, who has won 12 tour titles, will climb back into Top 20 next week for first time since January 2018.
No.1 versus Garros King
Paris: Novak Djokovic wheeled toward his guest box in a nearly empty Court Philippe Chatrier as midnight neared and let out one yell, two yells, three, four.
Once two points from a straight-set victory and seemingly well on his way to a French Open semifinal showdown against Rafael Nadal, Djokovic had to deal with so much that went awry: consecutive unforced errors that gave away a tiebreaker; a 21 1/2-minute delay while spectators left because of a Covid-19 curfew; a face-down tumble that drew blood from his left palm.
Still, the top-seeded Djokovic held on and moved on, pulling out the quarterfinal victory against No 9 Berrettini 6-3 6-2 6-7 (5) 7-5 on Wednesday night.
“This match had it all: falls, crowd, break. It was a lot of intensity. I just felt under tension the entire time,” Djokovic said.
“The reaction (at) the end was just me liberating that tension that was building up for the entire match.”
Now comes a semifinal on Friday against a familiar foe in a rematch of last year’s Roland Garros final, but a round earlier: Nadal, who is 105-2 in the clay-court tournament.
“We know each other well,” the third-seeded Nadal said.
“Everybody knows that in these kind of matches, anything can happen.”
Nadal’s French Open set streak ended earlier Wednesday. His pursuit of a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title — and what would be a 14th in Paris alone — remained very much intact, however.
Nadal shrugged off dropping a set at his favorite event for the first time in two years by whipping violent forehands punctuated with fist pumps and yells of “Vamos!” en route to a 6-3 4-6 6-4, 6-0 victory over 10th-seeded Diego Schwartzman.
“For anybody, it’s very difficult to play against him. He’s feeling very comfortable on court,” Schwartzman said after falling to 1-11 against Nadal.
“He’s Rafa, and he’s always finding the way.”
Nadal reached his 14th semifinal in Paris; Djokovic his 11th. It’s Djokovic’s 40th trip to the final four at any major, Nadal’s 35th. Nadal and Roger Federer share the men’s mark of 20 Grand Slam titles; Djokovic is at 18.
The semifinal will be the superstar duo’s 58th matchup, more than any other two men in the sport’s professional era; Djokovic leads 29-28. But Nadal is ahead 10-6 in Slam meetings, 7-1 at the French Open.
The other men’s semifinal on Friday is No 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas vs No 6 Alexander Zverev.
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