PARIS – When Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won the 2006 Australian Open junior title at age 14, it seemed like it wouldn’t be long before she emulated the likes of Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova and started winning Grand Slams.
On Thursday, she finally reached a Grand Slam final in her 52nd appearance, beating Slovenian Tamara Zidansek in straight sets to move closer to a victory of French Open glory.
No other woman has made as many attempts to reach a Grand Slam final, the previous highest number being the 44 taken by Italian Roberta Vinci before reaching the 2015 US Open final.
That’s not to say that 29-year-old Pavlyuchenkova’s career has been a disappointment – after all, she has 12 WTA titles to her name and has racked up more than $ 10 million in prize money.
But until this year’s French Open, her major league ceiling had been six quarter-final runs, the first at the 2011 French Open when she outscored Francesca Schiavone by one set and 4-1 but lost.
When asked what her 14-year-old self would have done, Pavlyuchenkova said: “What would I have said? What took you so long? It’s hard to talk about it right now.
“It’s been a long road. I had my own long and special road. Everyone has different shapes. I do not know. I’m happy to be in the final. “
Pavlyuchenkova, ranked 32nd in the world, showed all that experience on Thursday to fight Zidansek, ranked 85th.
With all the biggest names retiring and 17th seed Maria Sakkari of Greece or Czech under-seeded Barbora Krejcikova waiting in Saturday’s final, Pavlyuchenkova will never have a better chance of joining the Grand Winners’ club. Slam.
And everything has been a bit unexpected.
“I definitely did not expect that this year I would be in the final. I guess you can’t expect those things, ”said the Samara-born right-hander whose grandmother played basketball for the Soviet Union. “I 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 don’t regret it later. “
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