Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova came from a set and break down to defeat No.28 seed Elise Mertens 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-3 in 3 hours and 9 minutes to reach the last eight of Roland Garros. The match was the second-longest of the women's singles tournament so far.

The result puts Pavlyuchenkova, the 2021 runner-up, into her eighth career Grand Slam quarterfinal and third in Paris. Currently ranked No.333 as she makes her way back from a knee injury the sidelined her for most of 2022, the 31-year-old is the lowest-placed Roland Garros quarterfinalist in the history of the WTA Rankings.

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Only five players have reached the last eight of any Grand Slam in the Open Era while ranked lower: Martina Hingis (No.349 at the Australian Open 2006), Kaia Kanepi (No.451 at the US Open 2017), Kim Clijsters (unranked at the US Open 2009), Justine Henin (unranked at the Australian Open 2010) and Tsvetana Pironkova (unranked at the US Open 2020).

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Pavlyuchenkova, who needed 3 hours and 6 minutes to upset No.15 seed Liudmila Samsonova 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 in the second round, has now won two of the three longest matches of the Roland Garros women's singles draw so far. Only Leolia Jeanjean, whose first-round win over Kimberly Birrell required 3 hours and 10 minutes, has gone longer.

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Pavlyuchenkova will bid for a second Roland Garros semifinal place against Karolina Muchova, who ended the run of lucky loser Elina Avanesyan 6-4, 6-3.

Turning point: For a set-and-a-half, Mertens had the measure of her opponent. The Belgian demonstrated her ability to turn impossible defence into efficient attack, retrieving Pavlyuchenkova's shots at full stretch and repeatedly landing those retrievals on the baseline. 

Outfoxing Pavlyuchenkova with fine net play and drop shots as well, Mertens went up 6-3, 3-1. The fifth game of the second set would be the most dramatic turning point, but the seeds had arguably been planted in the second game: having broken Pavlyuchenkova for 1-0, Mertens coughed up three double faults to gift the break straight back.

The 27-year-old seemed to have shrugged that off when she regained the break, consolidated it and then held seven break points to lead 4-1 with a double break. But it had been a first sign of vulnerability, and a boost for Pavlyuchenkova.

Pavlyuchenkova saved all seven break points -- six with fine, attacking play -- and from that moment on played with a rhythm and intensity that had previously been lacking. She had found 12 winners in the first set, but raised that to 19 in each of the second and third. It wasn't just Pavlyuchenkova's trademark power finding its marks, either: bold forays to the net, where she won 17 out of 22 points in the last two sets, were key to her turnaround.

By contrast, Mertens' double faults kept coming, eventually totalling 16. She served two to fall behind an immediate break in the third set, and another two to go down a double break at 3-0.

Trailing 5-1, Mertens made a last stand, saving three match points and then breaking Pavlyuchenkova. But it was too little, too late. Pavlyuchenkova came up with three booming backhand winners to break Mertens again for the win, converting her fifth match point with an emphatic cross-court strike.

Muchova eases to fourth major quarterfinal

Muchova, meanwhile, booked a spot in her first quarterfinal in Paris, but fourth at a Grand Slam in her career, in 1 hour and 37 minutes. 

The Czech led throughout after building leads of 5-2 in each set, but ultimately needed five match points to seal victory. She failed to serve out the first set at 5-2, but slammed the door to love at her second opportunity, and later broke Avanesyan for a seventh time to win after failing to covert her first two match points against serving at 5-2. 

In all, Muchova totaled 31 winners, nearly double that of Avanesyan's 16, in a convincing display of all-court tennis. She also won 22 of the 31 points she played coming to net.  

Avanesyan becomes first lucky loser in French Open last 16 since 1988

Muchova was previously a semifinalist at the 2021 Australian Open, and a two-time quarterfinalist at Wimbledon, including in 2021 where she beat Pavyluchenkova in straight sets in the third round. Pavlyuchenkova leads their overall head-to-head 2-1, and their only clay-court meeting was a 7-6(4), 7-6(2) win for Pavlyuchenkova in Madrid four years ago.