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Russian Pavlyuchenkova advances to 1st major final in Paris

Tour veteran Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia advanced to her first Grand Slam final by beating unseeded Tamara Zidansek at the French Open on Thursday, 7-5, 6-3.

The 29-year-old Pavlyuchenkova, seeded 31st, is playing in her 52nd major tournament and her 14th French Open. She had been 0-6 in major quarterfinals before finally surmounting that hurdle on Tuesday and was steadier than the big-swinging Zidansek in their semifinal.

Pavlyuchenkova will play Saturday against the winner of Thursday’s second match — between No. 17-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece and unseeded Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic. It was only the second time in the professional era that there were four first-time Grand Slam women semifinalists at a major tournament and the first time since the 1978 Australian Open.

Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova returns the ball to Slovenia's Tamara Zidansek during their semifinal match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Paris. (AP PhotoMichel Euler)

Even so, the quality of play in the first match was mostly as good as the warm and cloudless weather. The 85th-ranked Zidansek, who this week became the first Slovenian woman to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal, was the better player for much of the first set, moving well and hitting the more aggressive groundstrokes.

But the consistent Pavlyuchenkova won the most important points, and Zidansek dumped consecutive shaky serves into the net to lose the set.

Pavlyuchenkova served well, and in the second set her groundstrokes carried more sting as she raced to a 4-1 lead. Her first sign of nerves came as she double-faulted twice, including on break point, to make it 4-3, but she broke back and easily served out the victory.

Spectators watch Slovenia's Tamara Zidansek playing Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova during their semifinal match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Paris. (AP PhotoChristophe Ena)

Pavlyuchenkova, who has won 12 tour titles, will climb back into Top 20 next week for first time since January 2018.

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Slovenia's Tamara Zidansek slams a forehand to Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova during their semifinal match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Paris. (AP PhotoMichel Euler)