Ten years after she first got there, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is back in the quarterfinals of Roland Garros.
A quarterfinalist in Paris at age 19 in 2011, the Russian is into the final eight again less than a month before her 30th birthday thanks to a a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 victory over No.15 seed Victoria Azarenka.
It is the seventh Grand Slam quarterfinal of her career, and her first outside Australia in five years.
"Tough to remember what I felt 10 years ago. I'd say completely different. I'm very happy also now. I think I feel a little different. I feel like more mature. It's a good moment, I'm enjoying it, but I've got work to do next matches," Pavlyuchenkova said.
"I'm kind of in the present, where before I was like, 'Oh, my God, quarterfinal. Oh, what's happening?' When I was actually playing quarterfinal, I was so emotional.
"I will never forget that match. 6-1, 4-1 up against [Francesca] Schiavone. I was just so in the emotions. I was like everywhere. I was too young. I didn't know how to handle it. I think it was my first quarterfinal at a Grand Slam. Back then I was a little bit all over the place. I didn't know how to handle it.
"I hope I show more maturity as well, smarter tennis, more consistent. I feel quite fit, as well, considering the fact that, like I've said, I'm not the youngest on tour now, but still feeling good. I'm also enjoying much more than before. I understand, I know what I have to do, I know what I want to do, trying to work for that."
Pavlyuchenkova faced adversity in more ways than one coming into the match: she'd not only lost in the third round or earlier in the nine years since she had her best-ever result in Paris, but also lost to Azarenka five times in their last six meetings, with her only victory coming via retirement at the Western & Southern Open in 2015.
She found herself a set down after the first hour of play despite having led 3-1, but broke Azarenka six times in the second and third sets combined to complete the comeback.
To do that, Pavlyuchenkova sparkled off the ground: after hitting 21 winners and 16 unforced in the first set, she combined for 24 winners to just 11 errors across the next two sets.
"I'm very pleased first of all because I won. I always say, I mean, a win is a win. I love winning no matter how. Sometimes, an ugly win is also good. But today especially was I think a very good quality match," she continued.
"Me also coming back from being a set down where I also had a lot of chances in the first, I still found my rhythm back and energy to pull it through."
On the other side of the net, Azarenka grew less consistent as the match wore on across two hours and nine minutes. Azarenka hit 17 of her 31 winners for the match to win the first set, where she also totaled just six unforced, but hit more errors than winners in each of the second and third sets.
"Definitely I felt that I was a bit less sharp. I didn't take my opportunities when I had them. The momentum shifted, for sure," Azarenka said in defeat.
"There's always some positives. The most positive thing I will say from this week, not the whole season, is that I've been able to play pain-free. That was my goal here. Everything else is something that can be reflected later, analyzed."
Despite having reached six prior Grand Slam quarterfinals, Pavlyuchenkova has never reached a semifinal at a major. Should she want to achieve that milestone, she'll have to beat either No.7 seed Serena Williams or No.17 seed Elena Rybakina, who play later in the day on Sunday.
"Even making the quarterfinals of Australian Open last year, 2020, sometimes like you have a very good run at the tournament, but you still don't feel confident with your game, with yourself. I never could understand why is that happening, why is it like this," Pavlyuchenkova said.
"Finally now I start to really work on my game, trying to find this consistent game that I want to play. That also gives me a lot of confidence. That kind of is something I would like to keep, progressively go into the next matches.
"I feel good but quite normal. Like I'm not super emotional. I'm happy, but still, I will enjoy this moment now today, but of course, tomorrow it's a new day. I got to go prepare for the next matches. I have doubles tomorrow.
"It's a little different. Like you can't afford yourself to be so much in the emotions. Just taking it day by day, moment by moment, and then we'll see."