Salem Radio Network News Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Sports

Tennis-Patient Pavlyuchenkova rewarded as she reaches French Open final in 52nd major

(Corrects amount of majors from 50 to 52 in lead and headline)

PARIS (Reuters) -Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova held steady to beat an erratic Tamara Zidansek in straight sets on Thursday and reach the French Open final at her 52nd Grand Slam tournament.

The 29-year-old’s 7-5 6-3 win made her the woman with the most attempts ever needed to reach the final of one of the four majors.

It was reward for her patience throughout a career that has earned her 12 titles but none on the biggest of stages, and also for her calmness against a player who blew hot and cold.

Pavlyuchenkova, the oldest of the four first-time semi-finalists here, will play 17th seed Maria Sakkari of Greece or the unseeded Czech Barbora Krejcikova in Saturday’s final.

“I am so tired and so happy, it is very emotional,” Pavlyuchenkova said on a sunlit Court Philippe Chatrier.

“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.”

While 31st seed Pavlyuchenkova had reached the quarter-finals at six Grand Slams, Zidansek had only managed three match wins at Grand Slams before arriving in Paris.

Yet the 23-year-old has flourished here after putting out former U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu in round one.

Her destructive forehand worked well intitially and she broke Pavlyuchenkova’s opening service game before holding to love. But she missed a smash at 2-1 as Pavlyuchenkova got back on level terms and the Russian then broke for a 5-3 lead.

Zidansek produced an incredible improvised lob volley and some crunching forehand winners to break back and was 15-40 when Pavlyuchenkova served at 5-5 but could not convert the chance.

Pavlyuchenkova absorbed Zidansek’s best shots and was gifted the first set with a double-fault.

The Russian forged 4-1 ahead in the second set and snuffed out an attempted Zidansek comeback, clinching victory when her opponent blazed a backhand wide, her 33rd unforced error.

There was little by way of celebration for Pavlyuchenkova who looked relived more than anything as she became the first Russian woman to reach a Grand Slam final since Maria Sharapova lost to Serena Williams at the 2015 Australian Open.

She also surpassed Roberta Vinci, who took 44 Grand Slam attempts before reaching the 2015 U.S. Open final.

“She was able to control the match tactically,” former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli, summarising for ITV Sport, said. “Not everyone can win their first Grand Slam at 19 or 20 years of age. If she can grab the moment and make that title hers she will deserve it entirely.”

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Chopra and Andrew Cawthorne)

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