A long and special road leads Pavlyuchenkova to the edge of Roland-Garros glory

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova reacts during her match against Tamara Zidansek on the 12th day of Roland-Garros at the Roland Garros stadium. (Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports)

PARIS – When Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won the 2006 Australian Open junior title at the age of 14, it seemed like it wouldn’t be long before she emulated Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova and started to win Grand Slam tournaments.

On Thursday, she finally reached a Grand Slam final in her 52nd appearance, beating Slovenian Tamara Zidansek in straight sets to come close to a victory of Roland Garros glory.

No other woman has attempted so many attempts to reach a Grand Slam final, the previous highest number being the 44 it took Italy’s Roberta Vinci to reach the 2015 US Open final. .

That’s not to say that the 29-year-old Pavlyuchenkova’s career has been a disappointment, after all, she has 12 WTA titles under her belt and has racked up over $ 10 million in cash prizes.

But until this year’s French Open, her cap in majors was six quarter-finals, the first at the 2011 French Open when she led Francesca Schiavone by a set and 4-1 but lost. .

When asked what her 14-year-old self would have done with it, Pavlyuchenkova replied, “What would she say? What took you so long? It’s hard to really talk about it right now.

“It has been a long road. I had my own special long road. Everyone has different manners. I do not know. I’m just happy to be in the final.

Pavlyuchenkova, ranked 32nd in the world, showed all that experience on Thursday to fight 85th Zidansek.

With all the biggest names having bowed out and 17th seed Maria Sakkari of Greece or non-seeded Czech Barbora Krejcikova awaiting Saturday’s final, Pavlyuchenkova may never have a better chance of joining. the Grand Slam winners club.

And it was all a bit unexpected.

“I really didn’t expect this year to be in the final. Guess you can’t expect these things, ”said the Samara-born right-hander whose grandmother played basketball for the Soviet Union. “I just said to myself, you know what, this year let’s do whatever it takes, whatever you can do to improve your game.”

“I started working with a sports psychologist, everything. I just wanted to give it a try so I have no regrets afterwards.

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