Unseeded Zidansek reaches French Open semis
PARIS (AP) — Before the French Open, Tamara Zidansek had never advanced past the second round at any Grand Slam.
The former snowboarder has now become the first woman from Slovenia to reach the semifinals at a major tournament.
Spurred on by the vocal support of her coaching team on Court Philippe Chatrier, the 85th-ranked Zidansek defeated Spanish rival Paula Badosa 7-5, 4-6, 8-6 Tuesday at Roland Garros.
“It feels overwhelming,” she said.
Zidansek's next opponent at the clay-court event will be Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, another first-time semifinalist.
Pavlyuchenkova came out on top of an other tense battle to rally past her doubles partner Elena Rybakina 6-7 (2), 6-2, 9-7. The 31st-seeded Russian had lost at this stage 10 years ago at Roland Garros and was 0-6 in Grand Slam quarterfinals before taking to the court.
“Mentally it was really, really hard this morning," she said. “Especially since I needed to play Elena. But this is tennis, we both wanted to win. The key was to be able to return her serve."
Pavlyuchenkova did it well and converted six of 17 break points against her rival and friend.
Six of the eight women’s quarterfinalists at this year's French Open had never made it so far at a Grand Slam tournament, including Zidansek, Badosa and Rybakina.
“I couldn’t control the nerves during the entire match," Badosa said.
Her match with Zidansek featured 15 breaks of serve, and they hit a combined total of 86 unforced errors. Rybakina, who upset Serena Williams in the previous round, struggled with her serve throughout.
When asked to reflect on her win, Zidansek said: “I guess I managed to keep my composure today a little bit better than her."
After splitting the first two sets, Badosa violently threw her racket in anger at the changeover after Zidansek held for a 6-5 lead in the third. She regained her composure but Zidansek then saved three break points to take a 7-6 lead and converted her second match point with a big forehand in the next game.
In perfect weather conditions, both players pulled off some spectacular winners but also hit a lot poor shots.
“I didn’t feel myself in the whole match," Badosa said. “I’m a little bit sad about that, because I think I played maybe the worst match of the tournament and of the clay season, but sometimes it’s like that."
Badosa applied pressure from the start with a flurry deep groundstrokes from the baseline. The strategy worked as Zidansek dropped her first service game and then trailed 3-0. But an error-strewn game from Badosa gave her rival a break and a boost.
Zidansek started to return better and went for her shots, linking attacks with bold moves at the net to even the score at 3-3. Badosa saved a set point in the 12th game with a forehand attack but could not fend off the second as her poor drop shot ended up in the net.
Badosa trailed 4-2 in the second set after a series of unforced errors but Zidansek could not build on the momentum and struggled with her serve, too.
The Spaniard rallied, made the decisive break in the ninth game at love and sealed the set with a big forehand.
The 23-year-old Zidansek, a three-time national junior snowboarding champion in Slovenia, opened this year’s tournament by upsetting seventh-seeded Bianca Andreescu in the first round for her first career win over a top-10 player. In that match, she was two points from defeat in both the second and third sets.
Zidansek reached a career-high ranking of No. 56 in June 2019.
AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf in Rome contributed to this report.
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