Russia’s Pavlyuchenkova advances to French Open final

Paris, Jun 10 (EFE).- Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova advanced to her first French Open final and maiden championship match at a major tournament with a 7-5, 6-3 victory Thursday afternoon over Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek.

After six appearances in Grand Slam singles quarterfinals prior to this year’s Roland Garros, the 29-year-old Russian finally achieved a career breakthrough in Paris by taking advantage of a wide-open draw.

The 32nd-ranked Pavlyuchenkova edged Kazakh world No. 22 Elena Rybakina in Tuesday’s quarterfinals and then controlled play after a shaky start to defeat the 85th-ranked Zidansek on Thursday.

The Russian showed clear signs of nerves in the early going, making six unforced errors in the first two games to fall behind 2-0.

But she was much more consistent from the third game onward, only making five unforced errors the rest of the set and rebounding well after squandering a chance to serve out the opener at 5-3.

Zidansek, for her part, showed plenty of firepower from the baseline, striking 17 winners to Pavlyuchenkova’s seven in the first set and recording a 27-19 edge overall.

But the serving woes that afflicted her in a narrow victory over Spain’s Paula Badosa in the quarterfinals, when she was broken on seven occasions over three sets, continued on Thursday.

The Slovenian was broken three times in the opening set and was particularly vulnerable on second-serve points, winning only two out of eight points when missing her first serve.

Zidansek’s weakness on the serve remained a key factor in the second set, as she was broken three more times and won only 42 percent of her first-serve points.

Pavlyuchenkova was only slightly better and committed two double faults to get broken when serving up 7-5, 4-2. But after breaking Zidansek’s serve a sixth time she served out the match confidently, clinching a berth in the final when the Slovenian steered a backhand wide.

“I had my own long special road,” the Russian said afterward. “Everybody has different ways. I don’t know, I’m just happy I’m in the final. Trying to enjoy.”

“Been thinking about (winning a Grand Slam tournament) 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.”

The Russian has advanced to the Roland Garros final in her 52nd appearance in a Grand Slam main draw; until this tournament, Italy’s Flavia Pennetta (surprise winner of the 2015 US Open) had been the WTA player with the most Grand Slam appearances prior to reaching a championship match (49).

Pavlyuchenkova had upset a pair of Belarusian top-20 players – fourth-ranked Aryna Sabalenka and 16th-ranked Victoria Azarenka – earlier in tournament and will next face either the Czech Republic’s Barbora Krejcikova or Greece’s Maria Sakkari in Saturday’s final. EFE


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