Pavlyuchenkova, Krejcikova to battle for French Open title

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is through to a first Grand Slam final at her 52nd major

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will play Barbora Krejcikova for the French Open title after the Russian reached her first Grand Slam final Thursday at a record 52nd attempt, while the Czech saved a match point in a dramatic win over Maria Sakkari.

Pavlyuchenkova defeated world number 85 Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia 7-5, 6-3, with the unseeded Krejcikova fighting back from the brink to outlast Sakkari 7-5, 4-6, 9-7 after three hours and 18 minutes.

“It’s been a long road. I had my own long special road. Everybody has different ways. I’m just happy I’m in the final,” said the 29-year-old Pavlyuchenkova, who made her Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon in 2007.

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Pavlyuchenkova, a former junior world number one and Roland Garros girls’ singles finalist in 2006, surged 5-3 ahead as Zidansek sprayed a forehand wide.

Zidansek then carved herself two break points at 5-5 but Pavlyuchenkova managed to hold, and the Russian struck the following game to wrap up the first set as her opponent committed a costly double fault.

Zidansek, twice two points from defeat in the first round here, continued to scrap hard and the nerves resurfaced for Pavlyuchenkova as two double faults allowed the Slovenian to claw her way back to 4-3.

– Krejcikova wins thriller –

“I always wanted to play a match like this, a challenging match where we’re both playing so well. Even if I lost today, I’m very proud of myself. Fighting, in life, it’s the most important thing,” said Krejcikova.

But Krejcikova picked up the next four, pulling 5-3 ahead with a sublime lob that left her serving for the set.

A routine hold from Krejcikova put the pressure back on Sakkari, who surrendered the set as her shot clipped the net and floated wide.

The Greek fended off a spirited comeback from Krejcikova to force a decider, Sakkari breaking for a 2-1 edge and saving a break point in the next game to consolidate as the finish line crept ever closer.

Krejcikova watched three match points of her own pass by at 7-6, Sakkari saving a pair with a crunching backhand winner and an ace.

Rather than dwell on her apparent hard luck, Krejcikova brought up a fifth match point, converting after three hours and 18 minutes with a backhand winner down the line.

World number one Djokovic has the overall edge at 29-28, but Nadal enjoys a 7-1 record in their French Open encounters and is 19-7 on clay against the Serb.

Nadal’s record in Paris now stands at 105 wins against just two losses.


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