PARIS • Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beat Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia 7-5, 6-3 to reach a first Grand Slam final at a record 52nd attempt at the French Open yesterday.
The Russian will face Greek 17th seed Maria Sakkari or unseeded Czech Barbora Krejcikova for the title tomorrow, 14 years after her Grand Slam debut, with both players having the chance to win their maiden Major.
It was the first time since 1978 - and only the second time in the Open era - that the women's singles in a Grand Slam has had four semi-final debutants.
Pavlyuchenkova, a quarter-finalist in Paris a decade ago, became the first woman to play more than 50 Majors before making her first final, breaking the previous mark of 44 set by 2015 US Open runner-up Roberta Vinci.
"I am so tired and so happy, it is very emotional," said the 29-year-old. "It was difficult, I tried to fight very hard and to work on the tactical side. It is important to stay focused and in the right zone for the final on Saturday."
The 31st seed dropped serve in the opening game on Court Philippe-Chatrier but capitalised on a fourth break point against Zidansek to break back for 2-2.
Pavlyuchenkova, a former top-ranked junior and Roland Garros girls' singles finalist in 2006, went 5-3 ahead as her opponent sprayed a forehand wide.
But the Slovenian immediately broke back, rewarded for her persistence and tireless defence - pulling off a remarkable backhand volley, throwing her racket at the ball and watching in astonishment as it caught the line.
Zidansek, 23, then carved herself two break points at 5-5 but Pavlyuchenkova managed to hold, and the world No. 32 claimed the following game to wrap up the first set as her opponent committed a costly double fault.
She rolled that momentum over into the second set, breaking in a lengthy second game to lead 2-0.
World No. 85 Zidansek responded to get back on serve but was broken yet again as Pavlyuchenkova swept into a 4-1 advantage.
Two double faults allowed her to claw her way back to 4-3, but another break from Pavlyuchenkova left the Russian serving for the match, with victory assured when the unseeded Zidansek fired wide.
The Slovenian will break into the top 50 for the first time on account of her deep run here - she had never previously been beyond the second round of a Slam.
Earlier, Briton Joe Salisbury ended his country's 39-year wait for a mixed doubles title at the French Open when he combined with American Desirae Krawczyk to beat Aslan Karatsev and Elena Vesnina 2-6, 6-4, 10-5 in the final.
Britain's last Major on red clay had also come in mixed doubles when John Lloyd partnered Australian Wendy Turnbull to win in 1982.
Mixed doubles, which features only at the four Slams and is not played on the professional tours, was not played last year at Roland Garros due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Day 13: Singtel TV Ch114 & StarHub Ch208, 8.30pm