The French Open women’s semifinals this year is entirely populated by first-timers. All four competitors — Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Tamara Zidansek, Maria Sakkari, and Barbora Krejcikova — have never been to a Grand Slam singles semifinal before.
By the end of Thursday, two of them will be headed to their first-ever Grand Slam singles final. Follow along with the results of the women’s semifinals below.
I always dreamed of playing a match like this, even since I was a junior. Even if I had lost, it would still be an honour. I think it is important to fight, in tennis and in life, and we were both playing at the very top of our games.
Krejcikova grits it out to beat Sakkari
It was a hotly contested match, but Krejcikova, unseeded at Roland-Garros and ranked No. 33 in the world, finally pulled it out. After a three hour and 18 minute game, the Czech Republic’s Krejcikova defeated the 17th-seeded Sakkari 7-5, 4-6, 9-7. At various points it looked like Krejcikova was cooked, but she was able to claw back every time by taking advantage of Sakkari’s mistakes.
For Sakkari, who hails from Greece, her biggest problem was closing. She’d jump out to a big lead in a game or a set and then allow Krejcikova to catch up. In the first set she had a 3-1 lead, then started to freeze and was able to win just one more game while Krejcikova took the set. She had a 4-0 lead in the second set, then it was 4-1, and then 4-2. In the seventh game, she went ahead 30-0 but ended up losing and allowing Krejcikova to inch even closer. She eventually managed to claw out a 5-4 lead, but it took her three set points to finally put the set away.
Down to a one-set shootout, Sakkari battled not just Krejcikova but her own mistakes. Facing match point, she failed to hold and let Krejcikova back in at 5-4. Then several costly forehand errors let Krejcikova pull even at 5-5. Krejcikova kept finding ways to take advantage of Sakkari’s mistakes, and Sakkari’s inability to execute the drop shot was deadly. The momentum had swung wildly during the match, but Krejcikova finally got hold of it. Despite several courageous comebacks from Sakkari, Krejcikova continued to get the upper hand and and finally drove the match home.
“I always dreamed of playing a match like this, even since I was a junior,” Krejcikova said after the match. “Even if I had lost, it would still be an honor. I think it is important to fight, in tennis and in life, and we were both playing at the very top of our games.”
Krejcikova, who is also competing in women’s doubles, now has the opportunity to win two Grand Slam titles at the same tournament. Her doubles semifinal with partner Katerina Siniakova is scheduled for Friday.
Pavlyuchenkova advances to final with defeat of Zidansek
It took Pavlyuchenkova more than 50 attempts, but she finally accomplished her goal. The 29-year-old Russian made it to her first-ever Grand Slam final on Thursday with her 7-5, 6-3 victory over Zidansek. It was her 52nd main draw, making her the first woman to play more than 50 majors before making her first final.
Zidansek, who is the first Slovenian player to reach the last four of a major tournament, put up a fight over the 94-minute match. She jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first set, smashing winners left and right (she’d end the match with 27 to Pavlyuchenkova’s 19). Pavlyuchenkova came roaring back, winning three straight games to lead 3-2, then quickly went up 5-3. With the set hanging in the balance, they had one of the most entertaining volleys you’ll see all tournament.
Zidansek eventually won the game to make it 5-4, and then evened the score at 5-5, but that tie was essentially the last time she had any control over the match. Pavlyuchenkova had been neutralizing Zidansek’s strong forehand by sending everything toward her backhand, and it was working. She whipped out some gutsy returns to take the set 7-5, and started the second set with a strong 2-0 lead. Zidansek was able to stop Pavlyuchenkova from galloping all over her with a two-game surge in the middle of the set, but she couldn’t stop Pavlyuchenkova’s momentum.
Pavlyuchenkova is the first Russian woman to make it to a Grand Slam final in six years. The last woman to do it was Maria Sharapova, who was watching the match on TV and immediately congratulated Pavlyuchenkova on her win.
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