Maria Sakkari in the 2021 Roland Garros quarter-final, Paris, France
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 09: Maria Sakkari of Greece returns a ball in her Quarter Final match against Iga Swiatek of Poland during day eleven of the 2021 French Open at Roland Garros on June 09, 2021 in Paris, France. (Photo by Tnani Badreddine/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

Tennis | Roland Garros 2021 | A first time Roland Garros final awaits for the women’s semi-finalists

  • Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova [31] v Tamara Zidansek
  • Barbora Krejcikova v Maria Sakkari [17]
PARIS, FRANCE – No-one could have predicted this line up a little under two weeks ago as the Roland Garros women’s semi-finals are set.


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Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova [31] v Tamara Zidansek | First Meeting

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Six quarter-finals in her illustrious career, and the 31st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is into her first Slam semi-final. For Tamara Zidansek, the achievement feels more monumental as she had never even been past the second round at any Slam and had never won a first round match at Roland Garros.


H2H & Match Fundamentals

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova [31] v Tamara Zidansek H2H: First Meeting
Roland Garros Paris, France
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It has been a tournament of every kind of upset. From the debacle of how the Naomi Osaka withdrawal came about to freak injuries, it seems this tournament has had it all.

Few people would have felt unhappy about the advancement of Pavlyuchenkova. Her first two rounds were straight sets wins and since then the 2011 quarter-finalist has twice had t come from a set down before she secure her berth in the semi-finals.

She said, after her match: “I think I have always had the game. I have always played good. It’s just my mental wasn’t there. I wasn’t fit enough and mentally maybe not strong enough, where I’m working on this aspect, working with a sports psychologist now quite recent, and already I feel like it’s starting to pay off.”

Zidansek scored a huge scalp in taking out the Canadian No. 6 seed Bianca Andreescu and has had more than her share of tough matches as well.\

She said: “Winning the first round was a big breakthrough for me. I got a lot of confidence from that. I mean, before the tournament I was feeling really good. I was playing good, especially on clay. Had some good matches. I just kept going match by match. Every day is a chapter for itself.”

You could argue that Zidansek has had the more court time, having even squeezed an ITF tournament since starting her clay court season in Bogota, but there is a time when that could catch up to her.

Pavlyuchenkova warmed up with a run to the Madrid semi-final and that seemed to be enough. It will be an interesting match-up of styles with the all-rounder Zidansek looking to throw in a lot of variety to disrupt the powerful ground-strokes of Pavlyuchenkova.

Experience could win out here though with just a slight edge to the Russian.

Prediction: Pavlyuchenkova in three sets.


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Barbora Krejcikova v Maria Sakkari [17]

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In an absorbing match, Maria Sakkari up-ended the defending champion with heavy ball striking and endless energy, and she will face Czech Barbora Krejcikova in the second semi-final.


H2H & Match Fundamentals

Barbora Krejcikova v Maria Sakkari [17] H2H: Krejcikova leads 2-0 (incl. ITF)
Roland Garros Paris, France
Clay (O) Prize Money: €375,000
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The quarter-finals that led us to this point were both compelling matches. In both, the semi-finalists found themselves on the wrong end of a quick start bu their opponents, and both of them found the will to turn things around in the first set before going along with the momentum to ease into their first Slam semi-finals.

For Sakkari, it was a classic case of shutting down all avenues to defending champion Iga Swiatek, stopping her from getting any rhythm and peppering the Pole with a barrage of pacey ground-strokes that had her on the back foot.

Krejcikova kept her head when she too went down early to a clean-striking Coco Gauff, before bringing about a spectacular comeback in the tie-break. Gauff unravelled and really Krejcikova did not have to do much, perhaps getting a little tight at the end but closing it out.

Sakkari packs a punch on the court and backs that up with purposeful energy but Krejcikova is no stranger to Slam finals, having won a doubles Slam here at Roland Garros.

That may make a difference having been through this kind of build-up for the Czech, and she has worked hard to turn that success into a catalyst for her singles.

She said: “I never really wanted to be a doubles specialist. Everybody, they just put a label on me like, Yeah, you play doubles, you are a doubles specialist. But I never thought I just want to be a doubles specialist.

“We won our first two Grand Slams when I was 22. I felt like I don’t want to be a doubles specialist when I was 22. I want to play singles, I want to work hard, improve my game. I want to play the top players actually in singles.

“So I was just working hard all the time. I just wanted to play singles. It was really, like, frustrating that I just wasn’t able to get there. But I always felt like if I’m going to work hard, I’m just going to continue, just try to be patient, which is not really my thing (smiling).”

Sakkari has been tipped at times to make this breakthrough, but it took a while for her to convince herself.

“I don’t want to get too excited because I don’t have a day off tomorrow. I still have to play, stay focused. But it’s a big achievement, for sure. I’m enjoying, as I said on court, my tennis and myself.

“I have people around me telling it was going to come. You know, they were right. Maybe I was the one who was telling them, I was impatient, telling them, When and when and when? It actually came this week, so I’m happy about it.”

If we discount the ITF match, Sakkari admitted she played badly in their most recent encounter in Dubai, and when it comes to the game plan – whatever it was for Swiatek, it worked. Expect this to start out nervy but for Sakkari to have the confidence to get through.

Prediction: Sakkari in three sets.


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