PARIS: Unseeded Tamara Zidansek became the first Slovenian woman to reach a Grand Slam semifinal as she beat Spain’s Paula Badosa 7-5 4-6 8-6 in a gripping French Open battle yesterday.
A match between two Grand Slam quarter-final debutants was full of momentum shifts, but it was world No. 85 Zidansek who handled the occasion better to claim victory.
Her previous two main draw appearances at Roland Garros had resulted in first-round losses, but having beaten former US open champion Bianca Andreescu in the opening round she has gone from strength to strength on the red dirt.
Zidansek will play experienced Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in tomorrow’s semi-final.
The two others women’s quarter-finals, featuring defending champion Iga Swiatek against Maria Sakkari and American teenager Coco Gauff against Barbora Krejcikova, take place today.
After initially being out-hit by Badosa and dropping her opening two service games, the 23-year-old Zidansek settled down and began to dictate with her accurate forehand.
Badosa saved a set point at 5-6 with a thumping forehand but then netted an attempted drop shot to lose the opening set.
Zidansek then led 4-2 in the second set but the big-hitting Badosa, ranked 35, began to unleash her baseline weapons and reeled off six games in a row to seize command.
Badosa, who was on a nine-match winning streak on clay having won the title in Belgrade the week before the French Open, looked favourite to win the decider when she led 2-0.
But former competitive snowboarder Zidansek stopped the rot just in time, then showed real grit at 6-6 when she emerged from a pivotal game having saved three break points.
Zidansek produced two forehand winners to fend off the first two and then on the third she got lucky when her shot took a horrible bounce to deceive Badosa.
Both players struggled to cope with their nerves at various points during the match but it was Badosa who crumbled in the final game, serving a double fault and falling 15-40 behind.
Zidansek wasted the first match point but nailed another forehand to end the contest with a 48th winner.
Having knocked out 2019 runner-up Marketa Vondrousova in the previous round and with such an impressive run on clay, New York-born Badosa, 23, will rue an opportunity lost.
“I’m a little bit sad because I think I played maybe my worst match of the tournament and of the clay season,” she said.
“I couldn’t control the nerves during the entire match. But at least I fought until the last moment and I had my chances.”
Pavlyuchenkova finally reached a Grand Slam semi-final at the 52nd time of asking as she beat Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina 6-7(2) 6-2 9-7.
Six times the 29-year-old had lost at the quarter-final stage of one of the four majors, but she used all her experience to overcome her doubles partner in a gruelling scrap.
Rybakina, 21, looked in control of her first Grand Slam quarter-final when she opened up a 4-1 lead in the first set but Pavlyuchenkova hit back to force a tiebreak.
The Russian took the momentum into the second set to level the match and kept her nose ahead in a tense finale.
Rybakina, who beat Serena Williams in the fourth round, held serve three times to stay alive in the third set.
But the 21st seed failed at the fourth time of asking, ending the contest in tame fashion with a double-fault.