Third set: Krejcikova 7-5, 4-6, 1-0 Sakkari* (*denotes next server) Sakkari looks a bit thrown off, and completely mis-times four consecutive shots. Krejcikova holds to love. Was that anything to do with the extended break? Certainly it seems to have helped the Czech player.
Krejcikova is taking a lengthy break off the court. Sakkari has been off her seat, dancing around the court waiting for her opponent to emerge for around three minutes now. As Krejcikova finally re-emerges, there is a small smattering of boos around the court. It appears she has changed her clothes. There is, of course, no time limit between sets, but Sakkari’s momentum has been completely halted and it does seem to me to be deeply unfair on the Greek that she had to wait that long.
Sakkari wins the second set 6-4! We’re one set all!
Sakkari is getting very tense. It’s written all over her face. She wants this so badly, but has she got the composure to see this out? At deuce, she hits her first ace of the match up the T, but then smashes a forehand approximately four metres past the baseline. What on earth was that? Fluctuating between the sublime and the absurd. But Sakkari does get it done, converting her set point at the third attempt. She is absolutely elated, running across the court in celebration as though she has just won the final, and geeing up the crowd like a WWE on her march back to the chair. Into a third set we go!
Second set: Krejcikova 7-5, 4-5 Sakkari* (*denotes next server) The shadow is now complete. Was it important at all? Who knows. I ate a meal last week half in and half out of the sun last week and it was very difficult. Anyway, Krejcikova holds, which means Sakkari will have to serve to see out this set. After a strong start, she’s making a bit of a meal out of it.
Second set: Krejcikova* 7-5, 3-5 Sakkari (*denotes next server) A rare visit to the net helps Sakkari to a surprisingly worry-free hold to love. She’s one game away from levelling this match at one set all.
Second set: Krejcikova 7-5, 3-4 Sakkari* (*denotes next server) No surprise as Krejcikova, a nervy server, also struggles in the new shadowing conditions, but gets herself to deuce and then sends down a 109 mph bomb to help close out the game for a important hold. She’s on the charge! It will be a good 10-15 minutes until the shadow is completely over the court. Sakkari is upset at a call from the crowd during that game, but there’s nothing to be done.
Second set: Krejcikova* 7-5, 2-4 Sakkari (*denotes next server) Big shadows now falling across Chatrier, half it in blazing sunshine, half of it darkened. Must be difficult to serve in, as Krejcikova breaks Sakkari to go 4-2. She’s still a break of serve down but this second set isn’t finished.
Second set: Krejcikova 7-5, 1-4 Sakkari* (*denotes next server) Krejcikova serving woes continue. Her toss is all over the shop. She finds a first serve, but it’s only 85mph. Krejcikova scrambles to a hold of serve, but both players played fairly poorly there.
Second set: Krejcikova* 7-5, 0-4 Sakkari (*denotes next server) A ridiculous get from Sakkari. She’s well out of position but slides across the clay, plays a perfect slice forehand which keeps low, and Krejcikova goes from a position of strength in the point to defeated. Sakkari holds to go 4-0 up.
Second set: Krejcikova 7-5, 0-3 Sakkari* (*denotes next server) Krejcikova’s third double fault hands Sakkari another break point, and the Greek No 17 seed capitalises, forcing Krejcikova into an error on a crucial point. Sakkari gets the double break!
Second set: Krejcikova* 7-5, 0-2 Sakkari (*denotes next server) Krejcikova’s reluctance to come into the net is surprising. She’s a top-class doubles player, and is actually also in the women’s doubles semi-finals this year with Katerina Siniakova. They will become the No 1 ranked pair if they win at Roland Garros. At the moment, Krejcikova is sparring at the back of the court with Sakkari, and losing the battle. Sakkari holds her serve.
Second set: Krejcikova 7-5, 0-1 Sakkari* (*denotes next server) Sakkari will rise to 14 in the rankings if we wins this match and No 9 if she wins the title, but it’s a big task from here. Still, a break of serve in the opening game of the second set helps.
Krejcikova beats Sakkari to the first set 7-5!
Again, Krejcikova is using the high groundstrokes, which seem to unsettle Sakkari, who is not keen to move into the net. Krejcikova is playing on Sakkari’s patience, or lack thereof, and it means the Greek is trying to hit winners from 10 feet behind the baseline. To make matters worse, Sakkari then double faults and hits an easy forehand long to hand two set points to Krejcikova, who duly closes out the set! The Czech player, unseeded in this tournament, is halfway to a final against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova!
First set: Krejcikova 6-5 Sakkari* (*denotes next server) And now it is Krejcikova that serves to love. The Czech is still having issues with her toss, as she did against Gauff, but also manages to sends an ace out wide beyond the reach of Sakkari on the way to an easy hold.
First set: Krejcikova* 5-5 Sakkari (*denotes next server) And now the Greek serves to love. We are 5-5, Sakkari winning the last eight consecutive points.
First set: Krejcikova 5-4 Sakkari* (*denotes next server) I have no idea where this match is headed. Sakkari has just broken to love, with clean winners and shots that completely belie the form of the last few games. Remarkably, we are back on serve.
First set: Krejcikova* 5-3 Sakkari (*denotes next server) 40-0 down on her own serve, Sakkari has won just one of the last 10 points. A brief respite to 40-15 before Krejcikova plays one of the shots of the day to seal the break of serve: the Czech slids in towards the net and gets the ball back not only the net but also Sakkari’s head, a beautifully-judged lob onto the baseline that Krejcikova had no right to play. Chapeau.
First set: Krejcikova 4-3 Sakkari* (*denotes next server) Sakkari is berating herself after another wild backhand falls just outside the intended target. She has to be careful not to work herself into a frenzy, and has apparently stopped taking Krejcikova second serve on. In fact, she can’t even get it back at this point. Sakkari has six winner and 13 (eeeeesh) unforced errors. Krejcikova’s third straight game.
First set: Krejcikova* 3-3 Sakkari (*denotes next server) Sakkari has the most remarkable serving action, particularly on her second serve, twisting and contorting her body almost into a crescent moon before snapping back in her release. Krejcikova sends a few looping shots high and long, just inside Sakkari’s baseline and this depth seems to unnerve the Greek, who has to save break point with a nice serve out wide. After Sakkari’s early dominance, this is turning out to be an even contest and Krejcikova breaks to take the scores to 3-3, after a couple of thundering cross-court backhands.
First set: Krejcikova 2-3 Sakkari* (*denotes next server) Second serve is looking very shaky for Krejcikova, who is basically tossing the ball up for Sakkari at this point. At 15-30 down, Sakkari hits a particularly tame serve right back past Krejcikova for a clean winner. But Sakkari wastes two chances to break once more, putting two in the net. Krejcikova serves an ace, and although Sakkari questions the call, the umpire rules in the Czech’s favour, which Sakkari accepts, and after a couple of exchanged points, Krejcikova holds her serve for the first time. It wasn’t pretty, but she got the job done.
First set: Krejcikova* 1-3 Sakkari (*denotes next server) A lot of supporters are making their way into the court at the first changeover, so a bit of a delay. Sakkari gets the first hold to lead 3-1, the pick of the shots coming to go 40-30 up with a gorgeous forehand down the line, with Sakkari at full sprint. The Greek really is a bundle of energy.
First set: Krejcikova 1-2 Sakkari* (*denotes next server) Sakkari is so vocal on the court. I think that really got to her opponent, Iga Swiatek, yesterday, and maybe the same is happening with Krejcikova. The Czech player goes from 40-30 up to losing the game, resulting in the third consecutive break of serve. 1-2 to Sakkari.
First set: Krejcikova* 1-1 Sakkari (*denotes next server) After a wonderful drop shot that ended a 20-shot rally, Sakkari hands the break straight back to Krejcikova, who didn’t have to do much to earn that game.
Firstset: Krejcikova0-1Sakkari* (*denotes next server) Sakkari takes the early break! She looks really fired up here. Krejcikova took a while to find her feet against Gauff but really grew into the match, perhaps the same will be true here.
Who will meet Pavlyuchenkova in the final, then? Maria Sakkari is the highest-ranked player but Krejcikova played exceptional yesterday in her win over Coco Gauff. Both Sakkari and Krejcikova are both out on court, let’s rejoin the action at Chatrier.
Pavlyuchenkova also looks absolutely knackered. There was no wild celebrations at the end there. She simply closed her eyes and looked to the heavens in relief. Pavlyuchenkova has done a lot of work on her fitness and in the gym in recent months but I think she was desperate to avoid a third set, and some powerful hitting set up the victory here.
What a tournament for Zidansek, though! She’ll be in the top 50 for the first time off the back of her performances here. She’s an incredibly talented player, but too many errors cost her today.
Pavlyuchenkova beats Zidansek 7-5, 6-3! She sealed a place in the French Open final!
Almost every shot from Pavlyuchenkova is going to Zidansek’s backhand, and the tactic is working. Zidansek can’t use her forehand, her biggest weapon, and the Slovenian looks spent. At 30-15 up, a thundering serve sets up the first match point of the match, and another Zidansek error seals the match! Pavlyuchenkova is victorious! She will play in the French Open final against Maria Sakkari or Barbora Krejcikova.
Second set: Pavlyuchenkova* 7-5, 5-3 Zidansek (*denotes next server) 30-30 and Zidansek bunts a backhand a foot beyond the baseline for yet another break point. Just as Zidansek looked as she had found her best form, she has a nightmare game, shunting another backhand wide. Did Zidansek slip there? It matters not. Pavlyuchenkova will serve for a place in the French Open final.
Second set: Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 4-3 Zidansek* (*denotes next server) Two double faults gift Zidansek another break! She’s right back in this second set! Some sublime winners from both players here though, in between the unforced errors, but Zidansek is really on the charge. I do wonder if Pavlyuchenkova is hurt. She’s not moving as well as she was.
Second set: Pavlyuchenkova* 7-5, 4-2 Zidansek (*denotes next server) Zidansek had lost six of the last seven games, but she starts to swing. The last roll of the dice and it seems to work. Zidansek is at her most dangerous when she goes for her shots, trying to end the rally with a deft drop shot, as she does here for 15-0, or a devastating groundstroke, as she employs to seal out the game. A hold to love. It’s not over. The show goes on.
Second set: Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 4-1 Zidansek* (*denotes next server) Indeed it is ominous. A comfortable hold for Pavlyuchenkova, who is looking every inch like a Roland Garros finalist.
Second set: Pavlyuchenkova* 7-5, 3-1 Zidansek (*denotes next server) Pavlyuchenkova’s best shot of the match, running to her right before smashing a forehand down the line, which finds the corner. It looked in that last changeover that Pavlyuchenkova might have been struggling with some sort but she doesn’t show it. A confident break, and it’s again looking ominous for Zidansek.
Second set: Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 2-1 Zidansek* (*denotes next server) Pavlyuchenkova is doing her best to hit everything to Zidansek’s backhand, but the Slovenian comes to life and refinds her form from the beginning of the first set, sending low-flat forehands to all corners of the court. Zidansek only needs one break point, and from nowhere, we are back on serve!
Second set: Pavlyuchenkova* 7-5, 2-0 Zidansek (*denotes next server) Pavlyuchenkova forces deuce by coming into the net and firing a backhand down the line. I wonder Zidansek is getting tired – she’s spent a lot more time on court than her opponent in this tournament – and that 8-6, third-set win over Paula Badosa was a gruelling encounter. Pavlyuchenkova is picking off Zidansek’s second serve – the Slovenian saves a couple of break points but can’t live with Pavlyuchenkova’s power. Another break of serve, and this really is starting to look like Pavlyuchenkova’s to lose.
Second set: Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 1-0 Zidansek* (*denotes next server) For all her mistakes – 21 unforced errors – Zidansek has played the more entertaining tennis, and while that won’t necessarily win you a grand slam – hello Gaël Monfils! – you feel like the crowd are urging her on. Zidansek goes from 15-40 down to break point, before Pavlyuchenkova comes inside the baseline to dictate a couple of rallies and serve out the game. This game feels like a microcosm of the match, in many ways.
Pavlyuchenkova wins the first set 7-5!
Brilliance and sloppiness from Zidansek, who plays the most divine drop shot – so good that Pavlyuchenkova doesn’t even bother going for it – but then proceeds to self-destruct, smashing errant balls wide and into the net. Zidansek has hit 17 winners to Pavlyuchenkova’s seven, but it is the Russian who takes the first set, with the twelfth game of the match sealed with a Zidansek double fault.
First set: Pavlyuchenkova 6-5 Zidansek* (*denotes next server) This time Pavlyuchenkova comes to the net, but Zidansek rips a backhand cross-court to earn two break points at 40-15. The Russian has only won 2/9 in her visits to the net, and I wonder if the latest visit will discourage her. Great courage from Pavlyuchenkova, who smashes two ballsy serves right on the line to get to deuce. This is a huge game in the context of the match, but it is Pavlyuchenkova who holds her nerve to hold. Pavlyuchenkova hits a heavy ball when she gets into the groove, and Zidansek – particularly on the backhand side – often can’t handle it.
First set: Pavlyuchenkova* 5-5 Zidansek (*denotes next server) Some audible noises coming from Pavlyuchenkova, who was really given the run around in that last game. Zidansek is coming to the net a lot more often as the set progresses and has won the point on all eight occasions she has done so. A Zidansek drop shot does not quite come off, but the Slovenian closes out the game to level things up at 5-5!
First set: Pavlyuchenkova 5-4 Zidansek* (*denotes next server) AN ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS POINT! At 30-30, Pavlyuchenkova plays a drop shot, which Zidansek just about managed to sneak back over the net. The Slovenian is stranded, though, so Pavlyuchenkova lobs one back over Zidansek, who throw up her racket hopefully. The ball hits the very top string and catapults back towards Pavlyuchenkova’s baseline, just clipping the sideline! Zidansek just smiles, and her coaching team go bananas in the stand.
Pavlyuchenkova twice saves break point with some powerful groundstrokes but the Russian eventually succumbs, going long with a backhand. Zidansek breaks, and we’re back on serve!
First set: Pavlyuchenkova* 5-3 Zidansek (*denotes next server) A first drop shot from Zidansek, and it’s judged to absolute perfection. That shot was a big feature in her win in the quarter-final win over Paula Badosa and with Pavlyuchenkova lurking so far behind the baseline here, would not be a surprise to see it employed often here. Zidansek goes to 40-0 but a double fault and couple of sloppy errors let Pavlyuchenkova back into the game. Another double fault and another error later and Pavlyuchenkova breaks. She will serve for the first set!
First set: Pavlyuchenkova 4-3 Zidansek* (*denotes next server) In contrast, Pavlyuchenkova is 5ft10in and normally serves over 100mph. She holds here again, but only after a couple of bad misses from Zidansek. These two look very evenly matched though. Nothing between them so far. New balls in play.
First set: Pavlyuchenkov* 3-3 Zidansek (*denotes next server) At 5ft5in, you might expect serving to be a weakness of Zidansek, but she aces Pavlyuchenkova before moving 30-15 with a forehand winner after another perfect serve out wide. Not bad considering her fastest serve so far as only been 93mph. A good hold.
First set: Pavlyuchenkova 3-2 Zidansek* (*denotes next server) Pavlyuchenkova has only hit 60-odd winners on her forehand this tournament compared to Zidansek’s 109, but it’s the Russian who is dictating the rallies here. She holds to move 3-2 ahead, that’s three games on the trot.
Firstset: Pavlyuchenkova* 1-2 Zidansek (*denotes next server) Pavlyuchenkova rips a backhand down the line to secure three break points, but Zidansek comes back brilliantly to secure deuce. Zidansek looks certain to get the advantage with that ferocious forehand, but some brilliant defending from Pavlyuchenkova 10 feet behind her own baseline sees her throw a big lob into the sun. Zidansek is blinded by the sun and volleys it well out. Pavlyuchenkova breaks back, despite the fact that Zidansek has not missed a first serve yet, 12/12!
Firstset: Pavlyuchenkova 1-2 Zidansek* (*denotes next server) Pavlyuchenkova responds with a love hold of her own, and it’s the first game that she really started to play her shots, as she bids to become the first Russian finalist at Roland Garros since Maria Sharapova’s triumph over Simona Halep in 2014.
Firstset: Pavlyuchenkova*0-2Zidansek (*denotes next server) Zidansek holds to love. She’s settled brilliantly well, considering she’s the underdog here. Clay is her favourite surface and she looks completely at ease.
Firstset: Pavlyuchenkova0-1Zidansek* (*denotes next server) Pavlyuchenkova starts strongly with some great depth but Zidansek is standing right up on the baseline and forces deuce with one of her trademark forehands. That’s the Slovenian’s strongest shot, and she uses it again to secure her first break point. Pavlyuchenkova saves it with an ace up the middle, but Zidansek does get the break, tempting the Russian into the net with a low slice that Pavlyuchenkova sends long.
This is the first meeting between the pair. We see a shot of Pavlyuchenkova’s brother and coach, Aleksandr, who has two full tattoo sleeves and is sporting a skull t-shirt. Makes a change from the sporting goods we normally see.
Both semi-finalists are done warming up. Pavlyuchenkova will serve first. Here we go!
Pavlyuchenkova and Zidansek are now out on court at Chatrier. Zidansek confirms that she “slept really good. There are nerves but good nerves.”
Found it very interesting to hear an interview with Sakkari yesterday, who admitted that she was not enjoying her tennis until a recent trip back home to Greece, where she just lay on a beach, ate and slept. That meant she came back into this tournament fresh and hungry to train, and we can see the results.
That mindset hit home when Zidansek’s coach spoke yesterday.
Tennis is so important, but it’s not the only way, you know? We must spend the whole day. How to do it? Just to talk about tennis? You get tense then. So there are many things. We are mostly very positive. We enjoy every moment of life. Why not? We are not turtles that we live 220 years. Let’s enjoy it, c’mon.”
Obviously there’s been a big debate over this tournament over the players’ mental heath, with the withdrawal of Naomi Osaka. And being able to switch off, and being allowed to switch off during a relentless season on the tour, is sometimes as important as switching on.
About 20 mins until we start on Chatrier, where there’s been some British (!) news to celebrate!
What a moment this is for Tamara Zidansek. Ranked 61st in the world, this is the first time a Slovenian woman has ever reached a grand slam semi-final. Before this tournament, the 23-year-old’s best result at any grand slam was the second round, and now she faces Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for a spot in the French Open final, where she will meet one of Barbora Krejcikova and Maria Sakkari, with that match following this one on Philippe Chatrier.
Zidansek is trained by her compatriot Marjan Cuk, and the 55-year-old knows how far his player has come.
We came from small Slovenia. We don’t have wildcards in big tournaments, so we must really earn this way to come under No.100 WTA. For example, she won 17 ITFs at that time. We start at 10Ks, 15Ks, 25Ks, and so on. Now here we are, Top 100. At first, she was not believing that she’s part of it. We are from a small country, there is not so much history. But every month, every week was better and better. Now the things come together and here we are now.”
Even if Zidansek has had a reasonably favourable journey to the last four, she has done wonderfully well to reach this point. Pavlyuchenkova has had a much tougher draw, beating third seed Aryna Sabalenka, Victoria Azarenka, and Elena Rybakina en route to the semi-finals.
A former junior world No 1, this is also the first time Pavlyuchenkova has reached a grand slam semi-final, with six quarter-final defeats across all four major tournaments. Her quarter-final win over Rybakina was an epic match, in which the Russian came from a set down to win the third set 9-7.