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Pavlyuchenkova: “My own long, special road” to first Grand Slam final

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova advanced to her first Grand Slam final on Thursday at Roland-Garros. The Russian talked afterward about her journey to this point.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at Roland-Garros in 2021 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at Roland-Garros in 2021 ©

The oldest of the eight women’s quarter-finalists at the French Open, 29-year-old Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has been playing Grand Slam tournaments since 2007.

She probably didn’t think it would take until 2021 to reach a slam final for the first time.

After all, Pavlyuchenkova made a run to the quarter-finals at Roland-Garros back in 2011 — when she was only a teenager. In fact, she came within two games of advancing all the way to the semis that year before squandering a set and 4-1 lead over then-defending champion Francesca Schiavone. Despite the heartbreaking loss, the 19-year-old showed signs of future greatness.

Getting over the quarter-final hurdle

Sure enough, Pavlyuchenkova went on to reach the quarters of the 2011 US Open a few months later. She would eventually play four more major quarter-finals through 2020, and of the six total quarter-final appearances at least one was made at each of the four Grand Slams.

A semi-final and even a final, however, remained elusive.

But that has all changed at the 2021 French Open, the 52nd slam event of Pavlyuchenkova’s career. Following her breakthrough quarter-final win over doubles partner Elena Rybakina (a 6-7(2), 6-2, 9-7 thriller), the Russian defeated Tamara Zidansek 7-5, 6-3 on Thursday to finally reach a Grand Slam championship match.

Needless to say, it was worth the wait.

“14-year-old me would tell me, like, ‘What took you so long?,” Pavlyuchenkova said during her post-match press conference. “It’s been a long road. I had my own long special road. Everybody has different ways…. It’s been a lot of ups and downs. It’s been a tough one.

“I definitely didn’t expect this year being in the final. I guess you can’t expect those things. I was just there working hard, doing everything possible. I just said to myself, ‘You know what, this year let’s do whatever it takes, anything you can do to improve your game, your mentality.’ Started working with a sports psychologist — everything. Just I wanted to give it a try so I have no regrets after.”

It’s been there in my head forever.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, on the thought of winning a Grand Slam

The world No 32 certainly has no regrets now.

Now she wants to go one step farther and lift a Grand Slam trophy for the first time.

“This something I’ve been thinking about every single time,” Pavlyuchenkova said when asked she first started thinking about possibly winning a major. “I think as tennis players, that’s the only goal I think we have in the head. That’s why we (are) playing tennis. That’s for us the biggest achievement you can get. That’s what you playing for, I think, of course.

“I think about it all the time; been thinking about it since I was a junior, since I was a little kid, since I started playing tennis. That’s what you (are) playing for. That’s what you want. It’s been there in my head forever.”

And now she can put away forever the demons of that 2011 loss to Schiavone.

“I wasn’t thinking about that (match) because it was a quarter-final, not a semi-final,” Pavlyuchenkova said during an interview with Tennis Channel following Thursday’s victory. “I think that was a good example of how I couldn’t handle the moment. Those are tough lessons, but good lessons to learn.

“It took me a while.”

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