TThroughout her career, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova’s talent has never been in doubt. Her ball shooting has always been as clean as a whistle, and her signature touches from the days when she terrorized younger players at the age of only 14, but her success has always been constrained by her mental game.
She made her breakout role in Paris even more impactful. While the women’s semi-final produced the rare scenario of four first-time semi-finalists, an example that occurred just 43 years earlier at the 1978 Australian Open, not everyone was in the same boat.
Most of the players had to break new ground in terms of their performance along with their results, but that can’t really be said about Pavlyuchenkova. Her back-to-back victories over third seed Arina Sabalenka Victoria Azarenka and Elena Rybakina were excellent. But before this tournament, she had already defeated 35 top 10 players, won 12 titles and earned more than $10 million in prize money.
What I’ve done so far this week is constantly repeating her level and managing the important moments much better than before. Against Sabalenka and Rybakina, two of the sport’s most destructive ball strikers, she inflicted a combined 38 fewer fouls than her opponents while constantly trying to detect their movement. On the contrary, her victory over Azarenka was her shot at her best as she refused to give up control of the baseline.
But her most impressive performance was the competition she would have most preferred to win – her semi-final victory over Tamara Zidansek. Pavlyuchenkova had been waiting to reach the semi-finals for the first time in 10 years since going up 6-1, 4-1 against Francesca Schiavone in 2011. When she did, she was strongly favored, at least historically, against a much inferior player. . That alone could have been her downfall and she later explains how it was more difficult than the other encounters: “She thinks, ‘Okay, I rank higher, whatever. ” […] It was definitely a mind game going on there.”
Over the past two weeks, Pavlyuchenkova has shown that she is in the physical form of her life and with age she now knows how she needs to endure in order to make the most of herself. When asked earlier in the tournament when she first felt an adult on tour in her 15-plus years as a professional, the 29-year-old said she developed that maturity in the last year.
Against Zidansek, she worked her way to victory using all her experience. Pavlyuchenkova relied on her more solid game foundations and her ability to play at a high level for an extended period of time, maintaining her depth and relentlessly teasing Zidansek’s rear: “I tried to stay in the game at every point. I had my tactics. I knew what I had to do. So, just Discipline. I was simply trying to follow the discipline.”
“Disciplined” is not a word that even the most ardent fan used to describe in the past, however I have defined it over the past two weeks. With the discipline she has shown this week, she will also be a favorite against Barbora Krezhikova in the final on Saturday.
While only one place separates them in the standings – Pavlyuchenkova ranked 32 and Krejcikova 33 – they will reach their first major final under completely different conditions. It didn’t take long for any player to reach their first major final from Pavlyuchenkova in her 52nd event. On the contrary, a year ago, Krezhikova was out of the top 100. Last year, Roland Garros did not enter a major draw as a direct participant for the first time. Now they will play for everything.
“I definitely did not expect to be in the final this year,” said Pavlyuchenkova. “I guess you can’t expect these things. I was just there working hard, doing everything possible. I said to myself, ‘You know what? Let’s do whatever it takes this year, anything you can do to improve your game and your mentality.’ He started working with a sports psychologist, Everything. I just wanted to give it a try so I don’t have any regrets afterwards. That is it.”