Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 1-0 Zidansek* (*denotes next server)
Pavlyuchenkova’s focus right now is unnerving, and she whizzes to 40-15 on her serve, hitting a particularly clinical smash in the game.
But Zidansek is far from out of this, and she responds by grinding back to deuce after chasing down some tough shots. She then sets up a break point and Pavlyuchenkova’s focus turns to frustration as she bounces her racket on the ground after having lost her lead.
But the Russian is keeping steady, and a couple of Zidansek mis-hits sees Pavlyuchenkova hold eventually – finishing off the game with a forehand winner of her own.
Pavlyuchenkova* 7-5 Zidansek (*denotes next server)
PAVLYUCHENKOVA TAKES THE FIRST SET
Zidansek sends a forehand extremely wide, and then Pavlyuchenkova starts working her around the court to go 15-30 up. Another couple of heavy backhands forces Zidansek’s forehand long in the next point, and Pavlyuchenkova has two set points.
Zidansek then hits a disappointing double fault in an anti-climactic end to what has been a thrilling first set. Pavlyuchenkova nudges herself ahead in this semi-final, but with as many momentum swings as we’ve already seen, I doubt this will be a simple next set.
A look back at that CRAZY point when Pavlyuchenkova was serving for the set.
Pavlyuchenkova 6-5 Zidansek* (*denotes next server)
Zidansek’s forehand down the line wins the first point on Pavlyuchenkova’s serve.
She then draws an error from the Russian to go 15-30 up soon after. The next point feels crucial.
Pavlyuchenkova pushes Zidansek onto her backhand time and again in the next point, but the Slovenian hits a beauty cross court winner off it to earn two break points.
Pavlyuchenkova is dealing well under the pressure though, she holds her nerve and serves her way to deuce. After a tussle on the next few points, Pavlyuchenkova successfully holds – and Zidansek must now serve to stay in the first set. Pressure on the 23-year-old.
Pavlyuchenkova* 5-5 Zidansek (*denotes next server)
Zidansek’s backhand is drawing some errors and Pavlyuchenkova is preying on that. But Zidansek holds to 30, and we’re all square at 5-5.
Pavlyuchenkova 5-4 Zidansek* (*denotes next server)
This was the most dramatic game of the match so far!
Pavlyuchenkova forges to a 30-15 lead thanks to two unreturned serves. But she spends most of the next point defending an aggressive Zidansek, and her forehand goes into the net.
A brilliant rally comes next at 30-30. Pavlyuchenkova’s drop shot looks like she was about to beat Zidansek, but the Slovenian chased the ball down to just edge her own drop shot over the net. Pavlyuchenkova tries to lob her then, and Zidansek thrusts up her racket to reach the ball – she isn’t even facing the net, it was a total shot in the dark. But it somehow clings to the baseline and Zidansek earns a break point.
Though Pavlyuchenkova saved the next point, Zidansek chases down another drop shot to go up a second break point. Pavlyuchenkova uses her serve to get out of trouble again, but a forehand winner puts Zidansek in the driving seat soon after – with a third break point. Pavlyuchenkova can’t stop her this time – and sends her backhand long under pressure.
Zidansek breaks back and we’re on serve. This match has really upped the intensity in the last five minutes or so – Zidansek in particular mixing things up now.
Pavlyuchenkova* 5-3 Zidansek (*denotes next server)
Zidansek starts off with a forehand winner and then a sublime drop shot to go 30-0 up.
Her forehand takes centre stage again in the next point and she opens up with another cross court winner which Pavluchenkova can but watch. According to the stats, her topspin forehand is averaging nearly 80mph – similar numbers to Rafa Nadal no less.
But then Pavlyuchenkova grinds back to deuce, and a double fault from Zidansek gifts the Russian a break point at what could be a crucial stage of this set. Zidansek goes for the big forehand again, and it veers wide.
Pavlyuchenkova to serve for the set next. Big moment.
Pavlyuchenkova 4-3 Zidansek* (*denotes next server)
Pavlyuchenkova goes 30-0 up and this game was looking routine but then Zidansek stretches her to level up at 30-30. The young Slovenian then over eggs two forehands which go long, giving Pavlyuchenkova the hold.
Pavlyuchenkova* 3-3 Zidansek (*denotes next server)
Zidansek matches Pavlyuchenkova with her own strong hold, complete with ace. She’s fired up, and both players look laser-focused at the moment. Very difficult to know which way it will swing.
Pavlyuchenkova 3-2 Zidansek* (*denotes next server)
Pavlyuchenkova is finding her form now. A quick serving game again to hold, keeping points short and stopping Zidansek from opening up that blistering forehand.
Pavlyuchenkova* 2-2 Zidansek (*denotes next server)
Pavlyuchenkova speeds to 0-40 to set up three break-back points. But Zidansek ups the tempo and saves all three to deuce.
Zidansek fluffs an overhead smash with the sun in her eyes though, and Pavlyuchenkova gets her fourth chance to break. She moves up to the net throughout the rally, taking an aggressive approach and moving the Slovenian across the baseline and Zidansek hits her forehand into the net. Pavlyuchenkova breaks and we’re back on serve.
Pavlyuchenkova 1-2 Zidansek* (*denotes next server)
A brilliant service game from Pavlyuchenkova sees her hold to love, thanks to a few unplayable serves, and she gets her name up on the scoreboard.
Pavlyuchenkova* 0-2 Zidansek (*denotes next server)
There’s that big forehand against from Zidansek – and she holds to love.
Pavlyuchenkova looking much more nervous than her 23-year-old opponent.
Pavlyuchenkova 0-1 Zidansek* (*denotes next server)
Pavlyuchenkova looks like she’s on her way to an easy hold, but an error and Zidansek’s powerful forehand see the players on deuce.
Zidansek then sets up her first break point, which Pavlyuchnekova saves with a cool ace before sending her forehand into the net for a second break point. Her approach shot goes long, and Zidansek gets the early break.
Pavlyuchenkova* 0-0 Zidansek (*denotes next server)
We’re underway – Pavlyuchenkova serves first.
Earlier today, Briton Joe Salisbury won the mixed-doubles title with his partner Desirae Krawczyk!
The players are out
We’re almost up and running on women’s semi-finals day. Zidansek and Pavlyuchenkova are warming up.
Zidansek is flying Slovenia’s flag
Zidansek is the first woman representing Slovenia to advance to a Slam semi-final. Not pressure, especially when your coach is saying this pre-match:
Pavlyuchenkova’s long-awaited break-through
Pavlyuchenkova has reached the last eight of every Grand Slam, but she always stumbled at that point. Her first appearance was here at Roland Garros, 10 years ago when she was a teenager. The 29-year-old made it seventh-time lucky to progress to the last four today. Can she go one better?
If she does, she will become the first woman to play more than 50 majors before reaching her first final.
Fun facts about our first two semi-finalists
Pavlyuchenkova has struck a tournament-leading 155 winners en route to the last-four.
Zidansek’s sporting career began as a junior champion snowboarder before she tried tennis.
Hello and welcome…
… to today’s coverage of the French Open women’s semi-finals! If the quarter-finals are anything to go by, today is set to be full of drama.
The entire fortnight has been unexpected in every way in the women’s side of the draw, with only one top 10 player progressing to the last-eight due to drop outs, injuries and some shock results.
None more so than Maria Sakkari’s win over reigning champion Iga Swiatek in straight sets yesterday. Though Swiatek was struggling at points with an underlying injury, the result was a major upset – one which ended her 11-match, 22-set winning streak in Paris.
It means Sakkari becomes the first Greek woman to reach a major semi-final in singles, and moves into the last four as the top seed left in the draw – at 17th – and probably the favourite to lift the trophy.
Before a ball is even hit though, today is already history-making. Barbora Krejcikova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Sakkari and Tamara Zidansek are all appearing in the last four at a major for the first time. This has only happened at one other Grand Slam tournament in the Open Era – the 1978 Australian Open, when Diane Evers, Christine Matison, Betsy Nagelsen and Chris O’Neil were the four semi-finalists.
The first semi-final, between Pavlyuchenkova and Zidansek is perhaps the most difficult to predict. Zidansek is ranked 85 in the world, and competing in only her fifth main draw appearance at a slam. Meanwhile Pavlyuchenkova has heaps of experience, this being her 53rd major appearance and regularly appearing inside the top 30 over her career.
The Russian’s best previous result at Roland Garros was a quarter-final appearance 10 years ago and she beat two major threats in Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka on her way to the semi-final. But neither she nor Zidansek have ever played each other, so there is an unknown quality to this one.
Later, Krejcikova – also unseeded – will face Sakkari. The Czech lies just outside the top 30 in the world, but beat Elina Svitolina, Sloane Stephens and Coco Gauff to get to this point – proving she has the ability to rise in big moments. In her two previous meetings with Sakkari – including in Dubai earlier this year – Krejcikova got the better of the Greek and will take confidence from that.
We will be here all afternoon with live updates and build up of the action – beginning at 2pm.