First set: Krejcikova 2-3 Sakkari* (*denotes next server) Second serve is looking very shaky for Krejcikova, who is basically tossing the ball up for Sakkari at this point. At 15-30 down, Sakkari hits a particularly tame serve right back past Krejcikova for a clean winner. But Sakkari wastes two chances to break once more, putting two in the net. Krejcikova serves an ace, and although Sakkari questions the call, the umpire rules in the Czech’s favour, which Sakkari accepts, and after a couple of exchanged points, Krejcikova holds her serve for the first time. It wasn’t pretty, but she got the job done.
First set: Krejcikova* 1-3 Sakkari (*denotes next server) A lot of supporters are making their way into the court at the first changeover, so a bit of a delay. Sakkari gets the first hold to lead 3-1, the pick of the shots coming to go 40-30 up with a gorgeous forehand down the line, with Sakkari at full sprint. The Greek really is a bundle of energy.
First set: Krejcikova 1-2 Sakkari* (*denotes next server) Sakkari is so vocal on the court. I think that really got to her opponent, Iga Swiatek, yesterday, and maybe the same is happening with Krejcikova. The Czech player goes from 40-30 up to losing the game, resulting in the third consecutive break of serve. 1-2 to Sakkari.
First set: Krejcikova* 1-1 Sakkari (*denotes next server) After a wonderful drop shot that ended a 20-shot rally, Sakkari hands the break straight back to Krejcikova, who didn’t have to do much to earn that game.
First set: Krejcikova 0-1 Sakkari* (*denotes next server) Sakkari takes the early break! She looks really fired up here. Krejcikova took a while to find her feet against Gauff but really grew into the match, perhaps the same will be true here.
at 11.26am EDT
Who will meet Pavlyuchenkova in the final, then? Maria Sakkari is the highest-ranked player but Krejcikova played exceptional yesterday in her win over Coco Gauff. Both Sakkari and Krejcikova are both out on court, let’s rejoin the action at Chatrier.
Pavlyuchenkova also looks absolutely knackered. There was no wild celebrations at the end there. She simply closed her eyes and looked to the heavens in relief. Pavlyuchenkova has done a lot of work on her fitness and in the gym in recent months but I think she was desperate to avoid a third set, and some powerful hitting set up the victory here.
What a tournament for Zidansek, though! She’ll be in the top 50 for the first time off the back of her performances here. She’s an incredibly talented player, but too many errors cost her today.
Pavlyuchenkova beats Zidansek 7-5, 6-3! She sealed a place in the French Open final!
Almost every shot from Pavlyuchenkova is going to Zidansek’s backhand, and the tactic is working. Zidansek can’t use her forehand, her biggest weapon, and the Slovenian looks spent. At 30-15 up, a thundering serve sets up the first match point of the match, and another Zidansek error seals the match! Pavlyuchenkova is victorious! She will play in the French Open final against Maria Sakkari or Barbora Krejcikova.
Second set: Pavlyuchenkova* 7-5, 5-3 Zidansek (*denotes next server) 30-30 and Zidansek bunts a backhand a foot beyond the baseline for yet another break point. Just as Zidansek looked as she had found her best form, she has a nightmare game, shunting another backhand wide. Did Zidansek slip there? It matters not. Pavlyuchenkova will serve for a place in the French Open final.
Second set: Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 4-3 Zidansek* (*denotes next server) Two double faults gift Zidansek another break! She’s right back in this second set! Some sublime winners from both players here though, in between the unforced errors, but Zidansek is really on the charge. I do wonder if Pavlyuchenkova is hurt. She’s not moving as well as she was.
Second set: Pavlyuchenkova* 7-5, 4-2 Zidansek (*denotes next server) Zidansek had lost six of the last seven games, but she starts to swing. The last roll of the dice and it seems to work. Zidansek is at her most dangerous when she goes for her shots, trying to end the rally with a deft drop shot, as she does here for 15-0, or a devastating groundstroke, as she employs to seal out the game. A hold to love. It’s not over. The show goes on.
at 10.37am EDT
Second set: Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 4-1 Zidansek* (*denotes next server) Indeed it is ominous. A comfortable hold for Pavlyuchenkova, who is looking every inch like a Roland Garros finalist.
Second set: Pavlyuchenkova* 7-5, 3-1 Zidansek (*denotes next server) Pavlyuchenkova’s best shot of the match, running to her right before smashing a forehand down the line, which finds the corner. It looked in that last changeover that Pavlyuchenkova might have been struggling with some sort but she doesn’t show it. A confident break, and it’s again looking ominous for Zidansek.
at 10.30am EDT
Second set: Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 2-1 Zidansek* (*denotes next server) Pavlyuchenkova is doing her best to hit everything to Zidansek’s backhand, but the Slovenian comes to life and refinds her form from the beginning of the first set, sending low-flat forehands to all corners of the court. Zidansek only needs one break point, and from nowhere, we are back on serve!
at 10.26am EDT
Second set: Pavlyuchenkova* 7-5, 2-0 Zidansek (*denotes next server) Pavlyuchenkova forces deuce by coming into the net and firing a backhand down the line. I wonder Zidansek is getting tired – she’s spent a lot more time on court than her opponent in this tournament – and that 8-6, third-set win over Paula Badosa was a gruelling encounter. Pavlyuchenkova is picking off Zidansek’s second serve – the Slovenian saves a couple of break points but can’t live with Pavlyuchenkova’s power. Another break of serve, and this really is starting to look like Pavlyuchenkova’s to lose.
at 10.26am EDT
Second set: Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 1-0 Zidansek* (*denotes next server) For all her mistakes – 21 unforced errors – Zidansek has played the more entertaining tennis, and while that won’t necessarily win you a grand slam – hello Gaël Monfils! – you feel like the crowd are urging her on. Zidansek goes from 15-40 down to break point, before Pavlyuchenkova comes inside the baseline to dictate a couple of rallies and serve out the game. This game feels like a microcosm of the match, in many ways.
at 10.26am EDT
Pavlyuchenkova wins the first set 7-5!
Brilliance and sloppiness from Zidansek, who plays the most divine drop shot – so good that Pavlyuchenkova doesn’t even bother going for it – but then proceeds to self-destruct, smashing errant balls wide and into the net. Zidansek has hit 17 winners to Pavlyuchenkova’s seven, but it is the Russian who takes the first set, with the twelfth game of the match sealed with a Zidansek double fault.
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First set: Pavlyuchenkova 6-5 Zidansek* (*denotes next server) This time Pavlyuchenkova comes to the net, but Zidansek rips a backhand cross-court to earn two break points at 40-15. The Russian has only won 2/9 in her visits to the net, and I wonder if the latest visit will discourage her. Great courage from Pavlyuchenkova, who smashes two ballsy serves right on the line to get to deuce. This is a huge game in the context of the match, but it is Pavlyuchenkova who holds her nerve to hold. Pavlyuchenkova hits a heavy ball when she gets into the groove, and Zidansek – particularly on the backhand side – often can’t handle it.
at 10.26am EDT
First set: Pavlyuchenkova* 5-5 Zidansek (*denotes next server) Some audible noises coming from Pavlyuchenkova, who was really given the run around in that last game. Zidansek is coming to the net a lot more often as the set progresses and has won the point on all eight occasions she has done so. A Zidansek drop shot does not quite come off, but the Slovenian closes out the game to level things up at 5-5!
at 10.27am EDT
First set: Pavlyuchenkova 5-4 Zidansek* (*denotes next server) AN ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS POINT! At 30-30, Pavlyuchenkova plays a drop shot, which Zidansek just about managed to sneak back over the net. The Slovenian is stranded, though, so Pavlyuchenkova lobs one back over Zidansek, who throw up her racket hopefully. The ball hits the very top string and catapults back towards Pavlyuchenkova’s baseline, just clipping the sideline! Zidansek just smiles, and her coaching team go bananas in the stand.
Pavlyuchenkova twice saves break point with some powerful groundstrokes but the Russian eventually succumbs, going long with a backhand. Zidansek breaks, and we’re back on serve!
at 10.27am EDT
First set: Pavlyuchenkova* 5-3 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!
at 10.37am EDT
First set: Pavlyuchenkova 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.
at 10.27am EDT
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: Pavlyuchenkova 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.
at 10.27am EDT
First set: Pavlyuchenkova* 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!
at 10.27am EDT
First set: Pavlyuchenkova 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.
at 10.27am EDT
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.
at 9.18am EDT
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.
at 9.15am EDT
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.