Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Barbora Krejcikova battle past the nerves to reach French Open final
Russian ends record wait for maiden Grand Slam final at the 52nd attempt and will face Czech world No 33
Considering all four French Open semi-finalists had never been this deep in a Grand Slam tournament before, nerves were to be expected on Thursday.
So it proved as Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Barbora Krejcikova booked their places in Saturday's final and a first shot at the biggest title of their careers, but not before riding out plenty of tense moments.
Russia's Pavlyuchenkova, competing in her first major semi-final having reached four previous quarter-finals, may have had all the experience on her side against Tamara Zidansek, but it was the world No 85 from Slovenia who settled faster by claiming a 2-0 lead in the first set.
However, Pavlyuchenkova relied on her superior power and stuck to a clear game plan to target Zidansek's weaker backhand side to at first pull herself level at 2-2 and then move into a 5-3 lead.
Despite appearing to be in control of the contest, Pavlyuchenkova was broken back when serving for the set before Zidansek held for 5-5. Two games later, it was the Slovenian's turn to waver on serve as Pavlyuchenkova edged the opener 7-5.
Pavlyuchenkova rolled that momentum over into the second set, breaking in a lengthy second game to lead 2-0. Zidansek responded to get back on serve but was again broken as the Russian swept into a 4-1 advantage.
Zidansek, twice two points from defeat in the first round in Paris, continued to scrap hard and the nerves resurfaced for Pavlyuchenkova as two double faults allowed the Slovenian to claw her way back to 4-3.
But Pavlyuchenkova was not going to be denied, as another break left her serving for the match, with victory assured when Zidansek fired wide.
"I am so tired and so happy, it is very emotional," said Pavlyuchenkova.
"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."
If the first semi-final felt like a tense affair, it paled in comparison to the next match on Court Philippe Chatrier.
World No 33 Krejcikova, an accomplished doubles player who has started to make vast improvements in singles, was considered the underdog against 17th seed Maria Sakkari.
But in a battle fraught with nerves and tension, it was Krejcikova who just about edged the match 7-5, 4-6, 9-7 in a marathon three hours and 18 minutes.
On Friday, the attention switches back to the men's draw as the two semi-finals see two of the game's newest stars face each other before the biggest rivalry in the modern era plays out for a 58th time.
Greek fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas takes on Alexander Zverev, the sixth seed from Germany, with the winner advancing to the final to play either world No 1 Novak Djokovic or defending and record 13-time champion Rafael Nadal.
Published: June 10, 2021 11:12 PM