Perseverance pays off for Pavlyuchenkova

 - Alex Sharp

The Russian booked a maiden Grand Slam semi-final in her 52nd major main-draw appearance.

© Julien Crosnier/FFT

It’s time to stop chasing for Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Fully motivated and clear-headed, the Russian is remains ever so focused after an absorbing 6-7(2), 6-2, 9-7 win over close friend and doubles partner Elena Rybakina. 

In Pavlyuchenkova’s 15th season in the Grand Slam arena, the 29-year-old edged into a maiden major semi-final after six false dawns at the last-eight stage.

It’s a milestone, but Pavlyuchenkova is far from finished on the terre battue.

“I actually have always wanted to be in the semi-finals so much before that I think I have achieved it now and I'm sort of neutral reaction. Of course, I'm happy, but I feel like I'm doing my work, I'm doing my job,” declared the world No.32. 

“There are still matches to go through, still work to be done. So I just look at this like that. Trying to enjoy this moment as much as I can but not giving so much importance as well. Take in the present and then see.”

The Russian was under the spotlight from a very young age, enjoying a dominant junior career that included three Grand Slam title runs and a runner-up finish in the girls' singles event at Roland-Garros in 2006.

At 17, the Nice native had already surged into the top 30 and first reached a Grand Slam quarter-final at Roland-Garros back in 2011.

With fluctuations in motivation, form and fitness, perseverance has finally paid off for Pavlyuchenkova.

“In big tournaments against big players it was ‘Okay, it's fine. Next time.’ But this time I felt like, ‘Okay, I was really far’,” admitted the Russian, referring to a wake-up call following an opening round 6-1, 6-2 loss to Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open.

“Then it makes you think, ‘I'm not there at this level?’ Like, ‘What am I doing?’ So you question yourself a lot.”

Pavlyuchenkova has always possessed the talent, proven by six previous unsuccessful duels in Grand Slam quarter-finals and 37 career wins against top-10 talent. With doubts banished, she’s in the right head space to contend at the very top.

“When I'm on the court, I'm doing my job and I fight, and I want to kill my opponent every time I play,” she said with a wicked smile.

“So that's the difference. I think I have always had the game. 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.”

As well as enlisting a sports psychologist, Pavlyuchenkova is currently working in a coaching capacity with her brother Aleksandr. Two decisions that have yielded significant results. 

“I have been putting a lot of work in, and I really, really wanted the results so badly, like since the clay-court season started, but I didn't expect that it would come sort of so quick, because I have already had right away the good run in Madrid and now it's here,” added the 29-year-old, who made the semi-finals in the Spanish capital.

“My brother, even now we were talking a bit, he teach me how to play smarter, to read the game, which I actually like sometimes don't read the game well. So that also helps, of course. Just those few things have helped.”

Looking ahead, Pavlyuchenkova has a doubles quarter-final to contest alongside Rybakina on Wednesday, before a shootout with surprise package world No.85 Tamara Zidansek for a ticket to the final.

“I'm a bit out of emotions right now. Probably later tonight I'll realise that (achievement). It was an unreal match today,” stated the Russian.

“Right now just I care about my body. I hope I'm like trying to hang in there and be in the best shape possible for my next match.”