Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Tamara Zidansek: Who are the two unexpected French Open semi-finalists?


It was far from the semi-final we predicted at the start of this year’s French Open, but now, there is a chance for either Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or Tamara Zidanšek to reach an unforeseen maiden Grand Slam final.

Both were involved in epic quarter-finals which went the distance to get to this stage. Zidansek saw off the in-form Spaniard Paula Badosa 7-5 4-6 8-6, while Pavlyuchenkova beat her own doubles partner Elena Rybakina 6-7 6-2 9-7.

Yet, with both players having reached this stage of a major competition for the first time, who emerges as the favourite heading into this tie?

On seeding alone, it’s Pavlyuchenkova who leads the way. Ranked 32nd in the world, the Russian has a wealth of experience, having turned professional 16 years ago. A Grand Slam semi-final had eluded her for some time before this event, with six previous quarter-final appearances across all four majors.

The 29-year-old has looked in fine touch at Roland-Garros so far, defeating some huge names on the way to making it this far. Aryna Sabalenka was widely tipped to make this year’s final, yet Pavlyucnkeova ended her hopes of a first major, before beating another Belarussian star in Victoria Azarenka in the fourth round.

Contrastingly, Zidanšek is a far more unknown quantity, having never reached further than the second round of a Slam before now.

The Slovenian has enjoyed success on the ITF tour, winning 17 titles and has reached two WTA finals.

The 23-year-old is ranked 85th in the world, but registered her first win over a top 10 player in the first-round –– defeating Canada’s Bianca Andreescu in three sets.

This win seemingly gave the 23-year-old newfound confidence and she has gone from strength to strength since then.

With unseeded Czech player Barbora Krejčíková also making this year’s semis, only defending champion Iga Świątek can prevent a new winner from lifting the trophy this year.

Standing in the Pole’s way is Greek 17th seed Maria Sakkari, but the world number nine will head into the match as an overwhelming favourite.

For Pavlyuchenkova and Zidanšek, however, there is nothing to lose. The pair have more than surpassed expectations already. For one of them, though, this remarkable journey will go on even further.

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