Zidansek ups her mental game

 - Simon Cambers

The 23-year-old becomes the first Slovenian woman to make a Grand Slam semi-final

Tamara Zidansek - Quarts de finale Roland-Garros 2021©Julien Crosnier / FFT

Before this year, Tamara Zidansek had never won a match in Paris, hardly the best foundation for someone with big aspirations and big dreams.

But an epic victory over No.6 seed Bianca Andreescu in the first round at Roland-Garros changed something in her mind and on Tuesday the world No.85 overcame another mental hurdle to reach her first Grand Slam semi-final.

Her 7-5, 4-6, 8-6 victory over a valiant Paula Badosa made the 23-year-old the first woman representing Slovenia to make the last four of a slam and she paid tribute to her sports psychologist for helping her to be strong in the important moments.

“I have always been super interested in what people think, you know, how does it work,” said Zidansek. “He's helped me a lot. Once you get to this stage, it's all about mental game. It's about believing that you can go out there. It's not like you can hit the ball harder or you can run faster.

“OK, maybe you can improve a little bit in that, but it's about believing. Just self-confidence, trying to compose yourself in the tough situations and just keep fighting. That takes a lot of mental preparation and a lot of energy. He's helped me a lot with that.”

The hard work is paying off and it showed right at the end of the battle with Badosa, when she saved three break points at 6-6, before breaking serve in the following game to clinch victory and a meeting with the Russian No.31 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

“At that point you just kind of fight for your life, I guess,” she said. “I just knew I had to keep going for it. I would say that my mindset was stay focused, be aggressive.

“I knew that I can do a lot of damage with my forehand. I've just got to get into the right position. That's exactly what I managed to do.”

Unless you win the title in the manner Iga Swiatek managed last year, the chances are that you will have to come through a testing battle at some stage or other.

Zidansek has now survived two epics and the Slovenian said beating Andreescu gave her the boost she needed.

“Winning the first round was a big breakthrough for me,” said the former youth snowboarder. “I got a lot of confidence from that.

“Before the tournament I was feeling really good. I was playing good, especially on clay. Had some good matches. When it started to click? I don't know. I just kept going match by match. Every day is a chapter for itself. I'm just going to keep doing that and hope for the best.”

Zidansek said she was now looking forward to seeing her family. “I think my mom and dad are going to come now, and my boyfriend as well,” she said. “ So that's going to be good.”

Badosa, who was also appearing in her first Grand Slam quarter-final, said she had been struck by nerves.

“It was a tough one,” she admitted. “I think she played a good match. I didn't feel myself in the whole match. I'm a little bit sad about that, because I think I played maybe the worst match of the tournament and of the clay season, but sometimes it's like that.

“I think I was very nervous. I couldn't control the nerves during the entire match. But at least I fight until the last moment and I had my chances. But, well, credit to her.”

The Spaniard said she would try to learn from the occasion.

“I was nervous in the morning, I was nervous yesterday night,” she said. “It's complicated the first time when you're in a quarter-final.

“When you want it so, so much, maybe sometimes it's a little bit too much, and I was putting a little bit too much pressure on myself. I think that's a little bit the next time, if I have another opportunity like this, I will try to change. Of course the nerves are always there, but I think today was a little bit too much.”