The seventh time's the charm: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is finally a Grand Slam semifinalist.
Previously 0-6 in Grand Slam singles quarterfinals - 0-11 if you include doubles - the 29-year-old Russian broke new ground on Tuesday at the French Open in her 50th main-draw at a major, outlasting Elena Rybakina in a three-set classic, 6-7(2), 6-2, 9-7.
She'll face fellow first-time semifinalist Tamara Zidansek, a winner herself over Paula Badosa in a quarterfinal that extended past 6-6 in the third, as both bid for a spot a Grand Slam final.
Ten years ago, a teenaged Pavlyuchenkova led 2010 champion, and eventual 2011 runner-up, Francesca Schiavone, 6-1, 4-1, in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.
There was no such lead in lucky number seven: instead, the now-veteran, a month shy of her 30th birthday, came from a set down, and a break down in the decider, to see off another first-time quarterfinalist in Rybakina.
"I actually have always wanted to be in the semifinals so much before that I think I have achieved it now and I'm sort of, like, [having a] neutral reaction," Pavlyuchenkova said.
"Of course I'm happy, but I feel like I'm doing my work, I'm doing my job, and there is still matches to go through, still work to be done. I just look at this like that. I'm trying to enjoy this moment as much as I can but not giving so much importance as well right now. Take in the present and enjoy this moment now and then see.
"I'm a bit out of emotions right now. I guess I need a little bit more time. Probably later tonight I'll realize that. I'm very happy with the win. It was unreal match today."
The Kazakh hit 11 winners in the first five games to lead 4-1 early on but couldn't maintain the level of her torrid start, though she found it just in time to sneak out the first set in a tiebreak.
Rounding into form after the early deficit, Pavlyuchenkova ran off six straight games from 2-2 in the second set to lead 2-0 in the third, but lost three straight games to fall a break behind. With parity immediately restored thanks to the Russian's fifth break, the two players went with serve for the next nine games.
"The way she started, it didn't surprise me because obviously I have watched her matches before, the previous match, and we practiced a lot. So I kind of expected it could happen, like she would just serve bombs and play hard, so I'd be, like, no chance there," Pavlyuchenkova said.
"The only thing you can do is hang in there. That's what I did. I believed in my chances. I believed in my game overall. I know I'm a fighter, so I will fight till the end. That's what I did.
"The third set, 2-0 up serving, yeah, I slowed down a little bit there. I don't know if maybe she played a little bit more loose there as well, combination of both. I was rushing a little bit."
While neither player faced a break point in that stretch, Rybakina saved some of her best first-strike tennis as she served from behind, including a hold from 0-30 to even up at 7-7.
In the end, however, Pavlyuchenkova would not be denied: a forehand winner from her racquet capped a lengthy rally to give her match point, and the Kaxakh's sixth double fault of the match handed her the victory.
"I didn't serve well at all today. My biggest weapon was not going, and because I was thinking a lot about this, I forgot completely the tactics," Rybakina reflected in defeat. "In the end, we showed really good fight, in the last, third set, last few games. Nastia also played really good.
"Overall, it's really good tournament for me, because it was my goal to reach second week and I did it."
Pavlyuchenkova is the first Russian woman to reach a Grand Slam semifinal since Elena Vesnina reached the last four at Wimbledon in 2016, and will bid to be the first Russian Grand Slam finalist in six years. But first, she and Rybakina will reunite tomorrow on the same side of the court as they take on Bernarda Pera and Magda Linette in the doubles quarterfinals.
"I try to take it as another match that I won in this tournament, and I'm not going to change any routines," Pavlyuchenkova said. "So tomorrow I'm just gonna go do my cool down, treatment, and tomorrow I've got a doubles to play with Elena, so we gonna warm up together and play normal doubles, and nothing's going to change for me.
"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, my best result so far at a Grand Slam.
"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."