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A long and distinguished road leads Pavlyuchenkova to the edge of French Open glory

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Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova reacts during her match against Tamara Zidansek on day 12 of the French Open at Roland Garros. (Suzanne Mullan – USA Today Sports)

PARIS – When Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won the Australian Open junior title in 2006 at the age of 14, it seemed like it wouldn’t take long before she emulated Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova and started winning the Grand Slams.

On Thursday, she finally reached the Grand Slam final in her 52nd appearance, defeating Slovenian Tamara Zidansek in straight sets to take her one win of French Open glory.

No other woman has made many attempts to reach the Grand Slam final, the previous highest being 44, which was contested by Italian Roberta Vinci before reaching the 2015 US Open final.

That’s not to say the 29-year-old Pavlyuchenkova’s career has been a disappointment, after all she has 12 WTA titles to her name and has amassed over $10 million in prize money.

But even this year’s French Open had its cap in the major leagues six runs in the quarter-finals, a first at the 2011 French Open when Francesca Schiavone led by set 4-1 but lost.

When Pavlyuchenkova was asked what she would do with her 14-year-old self, she said: “What would she say? What delayed you? It’s hard to talk about that now.

“It’s been a long way. I had my own long way. Everyone has different ways. I don’t know. I’m just glad I’m in the final.”

Pavlyuchenkova, ranked 32 in the world, showed all that experience on Thursday to take on 85th seed Zidansek.

With all the big names out, and Greece’s 17th seed Maria Sakkari or unseeded Czech Barbora Krijkova awaiting Saturday’s final, Pavlyuchenkova might not stand a better chance of joining the Grand Slam winners’ squad.

It was all a little unexpected.

“I definitely didn’t expect this year to be in the final. I guess you can’t expect these things,” said the Samara-born right-hand man whose grandmother played basketball for the Soviet Union. What it takes, anything you can do to improve your game.”

“I started working with a sports psychologist, everything. I just wanted to give it a try so I wouldn’t have any regrets afterwards.”

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