PARIS — Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova continued her late blooming at Roland Garros by defeating Tamara Zidansek on Thursday to reach the French Open final.
Pavlyuchenkova will take on unseeded Barbora Krejcikova, who saved a match point in a dramatic 7-5, 4-6, 9-7 victory over Maria Sakkari.
The Russian was the world junior No. 1 at just 14 years old and now, 15 years later, she will play for a first Grand Slam title on the Parisian clay.
Pavlyuchenkova had fallen six times in Slam quarterfinals over 10 years before beating Elena Rybakina on Tuesday, but she needed just one attempt at a semifinal, seeing off Zidansek 7-5, 6-3.
Zidansek was the outsider of a hugely unexpected Final Four, none of whom had ever stood on this stage at a Slam before.
Ranked 85th, the 23-year-old had won a tense battle with Paula Badosa in the quarterfinals, holding her nerve when it counted.
She looked the more composed of the pair at the start here as well, but Pavlyuchenkova began to make her big strikes count and moved into a 5-3 lead.
She was unable to serve out the set, Zidansek pulling off an backhand overhead winner to help her break, but a double fault from the Slovenian then handed it to her opponent.
Pavlyuchenkova was always ahead in the second set and kept it together with the prize in sight, clinching her first match point when Zidansek drilled a backhand wide.
There was no big celebration from the 29-year-old, who simply took a deep breath before allowing herself a satisfied smile as she tried to take in her achievement.
In the other semifinal, the tension of the occasion was evident in the performance of both players and Sakkari was unable to capitalize on a strong start as Krejcikova fought back to claim the opening set.
Sakkari forged to a 4-0 lead in the second and managed to overcome her nerves to take it, with Krejcikova heading off the court for a lengthy bathroom break.
Sakkari did not allow that to distract her and opened a 5-3 lead in the decider, with Krejcikova putting away a swing volley to fend off a match point.
Serving for the match, Sakkari could not quell the nerves, though, and Krejcikova stormed back. The Czech then created three match points at 7-6 but Sakkari saved them all.
Two more arrived two games later, though. On the first, Krejcikova celebrated thinking Sakkari had hit the ball out only for the umpire to decide it was in. But on the second, the Czech guided a backhand down the line.
Earlier Joe Salisbury became Britain’s first French Open champion in one of the major events for 39 years with victory in the mixed doubles alongside American Desirae Krawczyk.
Salisbury sounded slightly embarrassed to be in Thursday's final after he and Krawczyk were given a walkover in the semifinals, but they showed they fully deserved their place by beating Russian duo Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev 2-6, 6-4, 10-5.
It is a second Grand Slam title for Salisbury, who follows in the footsteps of John Lloyd, the winner of mixed doubles in 1982 with Australian Wendy Turnbull.
Salisbury previously lifted the Australian Open men’s doubles trophy last year with another American, Rajeev Ram, while this is Krawczyk’s first Slam title.