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‘Good team’ Pavlyuchenkova and Rybakina prepare for quarter-final face-off

A doubles pair will face each other for a place in the final four after beating former Grand Slam champions in the fourth round of Roland-Garros

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Roland-Garros Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at Roland-Garros (Panoramic)

Two doubles partners will meet in an intriguing quarter-final clash as Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova faces Elena Rybakina. Both are seeking to make their first-ever Grand Slam semi-final – and play each other for the first time.

“We are good team, good atmosphere,” explained Rybakina on Sunday.

It’s ten years since Pavlyuchenkova last reached the quarter-finals of Roland-Garros – and there were moments in her fourth-round match against Victoria Azarenka when she wondered what she was doing there at all this year.

The Russian lost the first set 7-5, and she admitted afterwards that she was feeling angry and a little disheartened.

“Funny because when I was a set down, I was losing the first set, I lost it, the beginning of the second I was looking at my shoes, at the clay,” she told the media afterwards with some laughter. “I was thinking, ‘I hate clay so much. What I’m even doing here in Paris?’ I was saying this to myself. But now I won and I really love this tournament and I love clay! So, you know, it’s always like this.”

Pavlyuchenkova: I have work to do

Back in 2011, Pavlyuchenkova – then still a teenager but seeded 15th – beat Yaroslava Shvedova, Mona Barthel, Nuria Llagostera Vives and Vera Zvonareva en route to the last eight. Faced in that quarter-final with Italy’s Francesca Schiavone, the defending champion, she had her chances to spring another surprise but fell short, losing 1-6, 7-5, 7-5.

Now aged 29, she feels more mature and more equipped to cope with a big occasion.

“It’s a good moment, I’m enjoying it, but I’ve got work to do next matches,” she said.

“I’m kind of in the present, where before I was like, ‘Oh, my God, quarter-final. Oh, what’s happening?’

“When I was actually playing quarter-final, I was so emotional. I will never forget that match. 6-1, 4-1 up against Schiavone. I was just so in the emotions. I was like everywhere. I was too young. I didn’t know how to handle it. I think it was my first quarter-final at a Grand Slam. Back then I was a little bit all over the place. I didn’t know how to handle it.”

Rybakina: It’s all experience

Her opponent on Tuesday, Rybakina, is in her own maiden Grand Slam quarter-final. From watching her apparently nerveless demolition of Serena Williams in the fourth round, 6-3, 7-5, one might expect her to deal quite easily with any butterflies.

“The end goal is always to win the tournaments and dream and go of course to win the Grand Slam,” she said after her victory on Sunday.

“So every time I step in on court I try not to think against who I play. Just try to do my work, follow the plan which we have. If it works well, I’m winning, and if it’s not, I’m just learning from the matches. It’s all like experience for me.”

The 21-year-old from Kazakhstan was in exceptional form at the start of 2020 before the tour shut down, reaching the final in Dubai, St Petersburg, and Shenzhen, and beating Zhang Shuai to win the title in Hobart.

Before they face each other on Tuesday, however, they have a doubles match to deal with – they take on third seeds Demi Schuurs and Nicole Melichar in the third round on Monday.

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