Day 8 Diary: Pavlyuchenkova back on familiar turf

2021 finalist returns to quarter-finals after missing last year due to injury

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, huitièmes de finale, Roland-Garros 2023©Philippe Montigny / FFT
 - Dan Imhoff and Chris Oddo

It was another Super Sunday at Roland-Garros, with twists and turns on the perilous journey through the draws. Doubts were allayed, streaks were extended and quarter-final spots filled.

Here's what you may have missed...

'I had fear and doubts'

Walking up the stairs to Court Philippe-Chatrier, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was understandably a bundle of nerves on Sunday.

It was her first time on the court since she reached the final at Roland-Garros two years ago.

Trailing 6-3, 3-1 and 0-40 on serve, Pavlyuchenkova surged back against Elise Mertens on Sunday to reach her first major quarter-final since that 2021 run.

It had been a slow road back after missing most of last season due to a knee injury.

“I had a fear and doubts that maybe I will never win a match again,” the 31-year-old said after her 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-3 triumph. “Maybe I will never get my good form back or I will never be fit again. What if I start playing again and the pain comes back and my knee is bad again?

“So, of course, I had a lot of thoughts and fear. But I guess this motivation and this desire of coming back and competing again and being on these big stages again and playing three-hour matches like today, you know, there was a lot more weight on that. So that kind of pushed me.

“I believed, I worked so hard, and even with all the failures that I had this year, earlier this year, and there was like sometimes ridiculous matches that I lost, still kept on believing, working hard, and just persistence and patience.”

Pavlyuchenkova will face Karolina Muchova for just her second Grand Slam semi-final berth.

Best-of-five brings out best of Khachanov

Change the city. Change the surface. As long as it's Grand Slam tennis, Karen Khachanov is good to go.

The No.11 seed made it 14 wins from his last 16 matches at the Grand Slams on Sunday on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, rallying past high-flying Italian Lorenzo Sonego, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6(7), 6-1 to set a quarter-final date with Novak Djokovic.

What's the secret to the 27-year-old's success on the Grand Slam stage of late? His warrior mentality...

“I think I’m more and more prepared physically and mentally and that’s why I feel strong playing best of five,” Khachanov said after powering back from a set and break deficit against the world No.48.

“In a normal tournament if you are one set and a half down you are almost going to the shower. Here you still know that the opponent has to win in three sets, it’s not easy. That’s why [best-of-five] makes me feel stronger and more confident.” 

Khachanov, who reached his first career Grand Slam semi-final at the US Open last September, backed it up with a trip to the last four at the Australian Open in Melbourne. To make it three Slam semis in a row he'll have to halt his personal seven-match losing streak against Djokovic.

"He's one of the toughest tasks, toughest opponents, and you cannot count him out," Khachanov said. "So at the same time I have ultimate respect, but I'm focused. I'm pumped to do well, and let's see if I can make it or not this time."

Svitolina's Crazy 8

This one goes to seven. The other one goes to eight. Suddenly scorching, Ukraine's Elina Svitolina doesn't remember how to lose.

The 28-year-old was 0-3 on the season when she travelled to Strasbourg last week in search of some form to take to Roland-Garros. Today, with said Strasbourg title in tow, Svitolina knocked out 2022 semi-finalist Daria Kasatkina to reach the quarter-finals on the Parisian clay for the fourth time.

Svitolina's 6-4, 7-6(5) victory over Kasatkina stretches her lifetime record to 7-0 over the world No. 9. And, she stretches her current winning streak to eight.

Svitolina will face Aryna Sabalenka next in Paris.

Korneeva tips hat to good friend Andreeva

A champion Down Under in the girls' singles final this year, 15-year-old Alina Korneeva has opened her Roland-Garros account on a winning note.

The third seed rallied to hold out German Ella Seidel 3-6, 7-6(4), 7-5 and admitted memories of her three-hour, 18-minute epic triumph over Mirra Andreeva in January entered her thoughts.

“Yes, when I played today and when she had a match ball I thought, 'Oh my god, I won a Grand Slam already and I'm going to lose in the first round',” Korneeva said. “There was a lot of things in my head so maybe it's helped me.”

Alina Korneeva, Roland-Garros 2023, girls' singles first round© Remy Chautard/FFT

The teenager will contest the remaining junior Slams in 2023 before making the switch to the professional level next year.

A year Andreeva’s junior, she was pleased for her friend’s run through qualifying to the third round in the women’s singles draw in Paris.

“I didn't watch it a lot. My mum said to me that she won some rounds and I said 'Oh, that's good’,” Korneeva said. “She worked a lot and she deserved it, so yes, I'm happy about her success but I think about myself.”

Stat of the Day: Carlitos Under-21

In Paris, the kid is alright...

By reaching the quarter-finals at Roland-Garros on Sunday, Carlos Alcaraz has now made four Grand Slam quarter-finals before turning 21. Since 2000, only Rafael Nadal (6) and Novak Djokovic (5) have reached more before hitting that age.

Alcaraz can pass both players on that list if he makes the last eight of the next three Slams (without missing one).

Carlos Alcaraz, huitièmes de finale, Roland-Garros 2023©Philippe Montigny / FFT