Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova turned her first grand slam semi-final appearance into a ticket to the final thanks to a 7-5 6-3 victory over Tamara Zidansek at the French Open. The Russian had already broken new ground by ending a run of six consecutive quarter-final losses in slams, with the 29-year-old now set to face Barbora Krejcikova or Maria Sakkari in the showpiece.
She certainly did not have it all her own way against surprise package Zidansek – another slam semi-final debutant – on Court Philippe Chatrier, having been broken in the opening game to suggest perhaps a hint of nerves.
But Pavlyuchenkova, who at 29 is six years older than her opponent, drew on all her experience to finish the job in straight sets and remain on course for a career-defining success in Paris.
A hold to love in game three of the first set seemed to put Pavlyuchenkova at ease as she began to find her range, which showed as the number 31 seed became increasingly aggressive in her approach.
The path to a one-set lead was still dotted with stumbles as there were five breaks of serve between the players, the last of which sealed it at 7-5 in Pavlyuchenkova's favour.
At 4-1 up in the second set she appeared to be coasting, before losing six points and two games on the bounce.
But again Pavlyuchenkova dug deep to find another level and finally send her Slovenian rival packing, reaching a slam final after 52 appearances in such events.
Data Slam: Second serves stifle Zidansek
In a match where both players looked vulnerable on serve at times, the disparity in points won on second serve proved telling.
While Pavlyuchenkova showed cunning and variety to mix things up, winning 54 per cent of the points on her second serve, Zidansek could only manage 38 per cent and was broken six times.
Pavlyuchenkova – 19/22
Zidansek – 27/33
Pavlyuchenkova – 3/3
Zidansek – 1/3
BREAK POINTS WON
Zidansek – 4/11