First set: Pavlyuchenkov* 1-2 Zidansek (*denotes next server) A first drop shot from Zidansek, and it’s judged to absolute perfection. That shot was a big feature in her win in the quarter-final win over Paula Badosa and with Pavlyuchenkova lurking so far behind the baseline here, would not be a surprise to see it employed often here. Zidansek goes to 40-0 but a double fault and couple of sloppy errors let Pavlyuchenkova back into the game. Another double fault and another error later and Pavlyuchenkova breaks. She will serve for the first set!
First set: Pavlyuchenkov 4-3 Zidansek* (*denotes next server) In contrast, Pavlyuchenkova is 5ft10in and normally serves over 100mph. She holds here again, but only after a couple of bad misses from Zidansek. These two look very evenly matched though. Nothing between them so far. New balls in play.
First set: Pavlyuchenkov* 3-3 Zidansek (*denotes next server) At 5ft5in, you might expect serving to be a weakness of Zidansek, but she aces Pavlyuchenkova before moving 30-15 with a forehand winner after another perfect serve out wide. Not bad considering her fastest serve so far as only been 93mph. A good hold.
First set: Pavlyuchenkov 3-2 Zidansek* (*denotes next server) Pavlyuchenkova has only hit 60-odd winners on her forehand this tournament compared to Zidansek’s 109, but it’s the Russian who is dictating the rallies here. She holds to move 3-2 ahead, that’s three games on the trot.
First set: Pavlyuchenkov* 1-2 Zidansek (*denotes next server) Pavlyuchenkova rips a backhand down the line to secure three break points, but Zidansek comes back brilliantly to secure deuce. Zidansek looks certain to get the advantage with that ferocious forehand, but some brilliant defending from Pavlyuchenkova 10 feet behind her own baseline sees her throw a big lob into the sun. Zidansek is blinded by the sun and volleys it well out. Pavlyuchenkova breaks back, despite the fact that Zidansek has not missed a first serve yet, 12/12!
First set: Pavlyuchenkov 1-2 Zidansek* (*denotes next server) Pavlyuchenkova responds with a love hold of her own, and it’s the first game that she really started to play her shots, as she bids to become the first Russian finalist at Roland Garros since Maria Sharapova’s triumph over Simona Halep in 2014.
First set: Pavlyuchenkova* 0-2 Zidansek (*denotes next server) Zidansek holds to love. She’s settled brilliantly well, considering she’s the underdog here. Clay is her favourite surface and she looks completely at ease.
First set: Pavlyuchenkova 0-1 Zidansek* (*denotes next server) Pavlyuchenkova starts strongly with some great depth but Zidansek is standing right up on the baseline and forces deuce with one of her trademark forehands. That’s the Slovenian’s strongest shot, and she uses it again to secure her first break point. Pavlyuchenkova saves it with an ace up the middle, but Zidansek does get the break, tempting the Russian into the net with a low slice that Pavlyuchenkova sends long.
This is the first meeting between the pair. We see a shot of Pavlyuchenkova’s brother and coach, Aleksandr, who has two full tattoo sleeves and is sporting a skull t-shirt. Makes a change from the sporting goods we normally see.
Both semi-finalists are done warming up. Pavlyuchenkova will serve first. Here we go!
Pavlyuchenkova and Zidansek are now out on court at Chatrier. Zidansek confirms that she “slept really good. There are nerves but good nerves.”
Found it very interesting to hear an interview with Sakkari yesterday, who admitted that she was not enjoying her tennis until a recent trip back home to Greece, where she just lay on a beach, ate and slept. That meant she came back into this tournament fresh and hungry to train, and we can see the results.
That mindset hit home when Zidansek’s coach spoke yesterday.
Tennis is so important, but it’s not the only way, you know? We must spend the whole day. How to do it? Just to talk about tennis? You get tense then. So there are many things. We are mostly very positive. We enjoy every moment of life. Why not? We are not turtles that we live 220 years. Let’s enjoy it, c’mon.”
Obviously there’s been a big debate over this tournament over the players’ mental heath, with the withdrawal of Naomi Osaka. And being able to switch off, and being allowed to switch off during a relentless season on the tour, is sometimes as important as switching on.
About 20 mins until we start on Chatrier, where there’s been some British (!) news to celebrate!
What a moment this is for Tamara Zidansek. Ranked 61st in the world, this is the first time a Slovenian woman has ever reached a grand slam semi-final. Before this tournament, the 23-year-old’s best result at any grand slam was the second round, and now she faces Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for a spot in the French Open final, where she will meet one of Barbora Krejcikova and Maria Sakkari, with that match following this one on Philippe Chatrier.
Zidansek is trained by her compatriot Marjan Cuk, and the 55-year-old knows how far his player has come.
We came from small Slovenia. We don’t have wildcards in big tournaments, so we must really earn this way to come under No.100 WTA. For example, she won 17 ITFs at that time. We start at 10Ks, 15Ks, 25Ks, and so on. Now here we are, Top 100. At first, she was not believing that she’s part of it. We are from a small country, there is not so much history. But every month, every week was better and better. Now the things come together and here we are now.”
Even if Zidansek has had a reasonably favourable journey to the last four, she has done wonderfully well to reach this point. Pavlyuchenkova has had a much tougher draw, beating third seed Aryna Sabalenka, Victoria Azarenka, and Elena Rybakina en route to the semi-finals.
A former junior world No 1, this is also the first time Pavlyuchenkova has reached a grand slam semi-final, with six quarter-final defeats across all four major tournaments. Her quarter-final win over Rybakina was an epic match, in which the Russian came from a set down to win the third set 9-7.
We’re all set for a 2pm BST start, then. Join me.