The women’s tour has two new players who have made a Grand Slam semifinal. Today, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Tamara Zidansek added their names to a growing list, one that could be longer in 24 hours.
After a Monday of blowouts in the women’s fourth round, things went beyond the distance today for the start of the quarterfinals.
Zidansek opened up against the favored Paula Badosa who has been among the best this spring on clay and stunned the Spaniard 7-5, 4-6, 8-6.
Badosa got up early but during a roller coaster opener, the Slovenian came right back to level. But as the breaks flowed, Zidansek got the last breaking to take the opener.
In the second, it was the Czech’s turn to take the lead, a lead she couldn’t hold as Badosa won the last four games to force a decider.
Badosa kept her run going, extending her games winning streak to six to lead 2-0 in the third. Serving 6-all, Zidansek escaped a 15-40 hole, then used that momentum to break Badosa for the win in 2 hours, 26 minutes.
“It feels overwhelming,” Zidansek said. “It’s hard to take it in like this fast. Speaking about nerves today, it was a great opportunity for the both of us to get into the semifinals, but I guess I managed to keep my composure today a little bit better than her.”
Zidansek had never been past the second round at a Slam before or even won a match at the French Open. She finished with 48 winners, 39 unforced while Badosa sprayed 47 unforced errors, 21 alone in the final set.
“Winning the first round was a big breakthrough for me,” said the 23-year-old. “I got a lot of confidence from that.
“Before the tournament I was feeling really good. I was playing good, especially on clay. Had some good matches. When it started to click? I don’t know. I just kept going match by match. Every day is a chapter for itself. I’m just going to keep doing that and hope for the best.”
Badosa, who is also 23, admitted to nerves in her first Major quarterfinal.
“I think she played a good match. I didn’t feel myself in the whole match,” Badosa said. “I’m a little bit sad about that, because I think I played maybe the worst match of the tournament and of the clay season, but sometimes it’s like that.
“I was very nervous,” she added. “I couldn’t control the nerves during the entire match. But at least I fight until the last moment and I had my chances.
“I was nervous in the morning. I was nervous yesterday night. It’s complicated the first time when you’re in a quarterfinals. When you want it so, so much, maybe sometimes it’s a little bit too much, and I was putting a little bit too much pressure on myself.”
Incredibly, the first quarter of the day would be the longest. It would get topped.
Playing in her 7th Slam quarterfinal Pavlyuchenkova was still seeking her first win at the stage, and she got it outlasting her doubles partner Elena Rybakina 6-7(2), 6-2, 9-7 in a thriller.
“I actually have always wanted to be in the semifinals so much before that I think I have achieved it now and I’m sort of neutral reaction,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “Of course, I’m happy, but I feel like I’m doing my work, I’m doing my job.
“There are still matches to go through, still work to be done. So I just look at this like that. Trying to enjoy this moment as much as I can but not giving so much importance as well. Take in the present and then see.”
Rybakina backed up her big stunner over Serena early, jumping out to a first set lead than hanging on in the breaker to go up a set.
Like the earlier affair, the first set loser got a on a run, this time Pavlyuchenkova won six straight games to take the second then lead 2-0 in the decider.
Serving 7-8, 30-40, a third unforced error, this time a double fault, ended it for Rybakina.
“I didn’t serve well at all today. My biggest weapon was not going, and because I was thinking a lot about this, I forgot completely the tactics,” Rybakina said. “In the end, we showed really good fight, in the last, third set, last few games. Nastia also played really good.
“Overall, it’s really good tournament for me, because it was my goal to reach second week and I did it.”
Pavlyuchenkova finished +16 winners/errors to Rybakina’s +3. Rybakina also served just 52% first serves and tossed in six double faults.
“The way she started, it didn’t surprise me because obviously I have watched her matches before, the previous match, and we practiced a lot,” the Russian said. “So I kind of expected it could happen, like she would just serve bombs and play hard, so I’d be, like, no chance there.
“The only thing you can do is hang in there. That’s what I did. I believed in my chances. I believed in my game overall. I know I’m a fighter, so I will fight till the end. That’s what I did.
So for a spot in the final, the 85th-ranked Zidansek will face World No. 32 Pavlyuchenkova.
Tomorrow, three of the four women are on torrid runs. Iga Swiatek will look to win her 12th straight match at the French Open against Maria Sakkari who’s the first Greek women in a Slam quarterfinal.
Just 17, Coco Gauff will challenge the 25-year-old Barbora Krejcikova. Both are in their first Slam quarterfinal and after lead-up titles, both enter on career-best 9-match win streaks.
“She’s young,” Krejcikova said of Gauff. “She’s incredible. She has the weapons. She has the game. I think she’s mentally really tough. She’s going to be the next star.”
Gauff is also on Alert. “She’s obviously been having a great clay season, and she’s a tough opponent,” Gauff said of the Czech. “I think that she’s a really smart player and she’s been on tour for some time. She’s one of those players, I guess, an all-court player, she can play all parts of the court. She does well in singles and doubles and mixed doubles.
“I’m just going to go out there and just focus on playing my game and not so much about her.”
The women’s semifinals will be played on Thursday with the final on Saturday.
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