Zidansek proud to fly the flag for Slovenia

The 85th-ranked quarter-finalist is pleased to show the world what athletes from her country are capable of

Tamara Zidansek, Roland Garros 2021, fourth round© Julien Crosnier/FFT
 - Simon Cambers

When you come from a country with a relatively small population, your every move is amplified. When you’re struggling, the attention can be suffocating; when you’re doing well, it can be a joy.

For Tamara Zidansek, life might be about to get a little busier after her 7-6(4), 6-1 win over Sorana Cirstea at Roland-Garros on Sunday, a victory that gives her a special place in history.

Zidansek is the first Slovenian woman ever to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam event and the 23-year-old admitted her phone has been buzzing ever since.

“I'm getting a lot of messages that everyone is watching,” she said. “It means a lot to me that I'm able to get across to the message to young people and everyone in Slovenia that we can do it.

“We're a small country, we don't have that many players, but we have good players.

“I'm really happy I can get that across. I'm pretty sure it means a lot to them, as well.”

While Slovenia boasts some famous basketball players like Goran Dragic and Luka Doncic, and cyclists, skiers and snowboarders, Zidansek is leading the way for tennis in her country. And she’s undeniably proud of her achievements.

“Considering that we have only two million people, I'm really happy to be a part of the athletes that is doing this good,” she said.

Tamara Zidansek, Roland Garros 2021, fourth round© Julien Crosnier/FFT

The messages were already winging their way in after Zidansek beat the sixth-seeded Bianca Andreescu, the former US Open champion, in an epic three-and-a-half-hour first-round battle.

Against Cirstea on Sunday, Zidansek survived a tight first set, when she saved a set point, before storming away in the second -- a performance showcased by outstanding movement and brilliant shot-making.

“I think that we both went into the match a little bit nervous, which is I guess normal,” she said. “A big opportunity for the both of us. It took me a couple of games to settle down. It was good that I got that first game on the scoreboard.

“I started serving better and better towards the end of the first set which also helped me to save that breakpoint, which was also a set point. From then on it was just in the tiebreak fighting for every point.

“Once I managed to get the tiebreak, I started feeling more comfortable out there. I started feeling more comfortable about going after my shots. That showed well in the second set.”

Next up for Zidansek is a meeting with Spain’s Paula Badosa, who took out the 2019 finalist, Marketa Vondrousova, in three sets. The pair know each other well from juniors - Badosa won their only meeting way back in 2014 - but now, there’s a Grand Slam semi-final place at stake.

“Badosa is in great shape,” Zidansek said. “I can say that we grew up together. We're almost the same age. I've known (her) for quite a long time. I played against Badosa in juniors.

“It's a completely different match. It's quarter-finals of a Grand Slam so I'm just going to get some good rest and prepare well for the match.”