Surprise package Tamara Zidansek makes history for Slovenia at French Open

Unseeded 23-year-old becomes first Slovenian woman to reach semi-finals of Grand Slam where she will take on Russia's Pavlyuchenkova

Tamara Zidansek celebrates after beating Paula Badosa in the French Open quarter-finals at Roland Garros Paris on Tuesday, June 8. EPA
Tamara Zidansek celebrates after beating Paula Badosa in the French Open quarter-finals at Roland Garros Paris on Tuesday, June 8. EPA

Tamara Zidansek became the first Slovenian woman to reach the semi-finals of a Grand Slam after beating Paula Badosa at the French Open on Tuesday.

The unseeded tournament surprise package, who had previously not gone beyond the second round at a major, battled to an enthralling 7-5, 4-6, 8-6 win.

Both the 23-year-olds seemed to struggle with nerves at various points in a roller-coaster match at Roland Garros full of momentum shifts.

Big-hitting Badosa, who was also playing in her first quarter-final, established a 3-0 lead with an early double break, only for Zidansek to battle back and eventually take the first set in 53 minutes.

World No 85 Zidansek then took control, leading by a set and 4-2 only for her Spanish opponent to storm back and secure six games on the spin.

Badosa, the world No 35 who was on a nine-match winning streak on clay, looked favourite to win the decider when she took an early 2-0 lead.

But Zidansek was not to be denied, saving three break points to move 7-6 ahead before taking her second match point in the next game.

"I knew before the match it was going to be a tough battle," said Zidansek. "In the third set I managed to get into my groove and I started feeling better and better, and I was fighting really well.

"It feels overwhelming ... 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."

As a result, Zidansek will break into the top 50 for the first time in next week's WTA rankings.

Next up will be Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova who defeated doubles partner Elena Rybakina in another three-set thriller in Paris.

The win brought welcome relief for the 29-year-old Russian who had previously lost six times at the quarter-final stage of a major.

At the 52nd time of asking, Pavlyuchenkova has finally reached the last four at a Grand Slam following her 6-7, 6-2, 9-7 victory.

Kazakhstan's Rybakina, who beat Serena Williams in the fourth round, dominated proceedings early on, opening up a 4-1 lead in the first set, only for Pavlyuchenkova to hit back and force a tiebreak.

Rybakina, though, regained her composure and raced confidently through the tiebreak to take the opening set, only for Pavlyuchenkova to fire straight back and take the second.

In a tense decider, there were four breaks in the first six games before Rybakina cracked in the 16th game, going down tamely on her sixth double fault.

"There are so many emotions to reach a Grand Slam semi-final for the first time," said Pavlyunchenkova, who admitted it was "tough" taking on her friend.

"I always had the tennis. Mentally, I'm probably more solid now. Just trying to play smarter tennis. I'm working harder."

Updated: June 8, 2021 09:48 PM

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