STRASBOURG, France - No.3 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova made no mistakes closing out resurgent Kazakh Zarina Diyas, 6-4, 6-2, to reach her first WTA semifinal of 2018 at the Internationaux de Strasbourg.
"It feels great because this season hasn't been easy for me," Pavlyuchenkova said after the match. "At the start of the year I was struggling a lot with my shoulder. I still do, but it's much better.
"It's been a tough season with tough draws - tough everything! - but I'm still working on myself to keep improving. I think I'm playing much better tennis than the beginning of the year."
The former World No.13 had last reached a semifinal when she won the Prudential Hong Kong Open, but things have changed since stepping onto red clay. She promptly reached her first quarterfinal of the year at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, narrowly losing to Anett Kontaveit in Stuttgart.
"I wasn't focusing on the numbers; sometimes it just comes down to bad luck here and there. I wasn't able to defend a lot of my points but I still kept my head up and working hard every day. It's starting to pay off now."
Pavlyuchenkova is yet to drop a set in Strasbourg, and continued to show marked improvement against Diyas, converting all five break point opportunities to advance after 68 minutes on Court Patrice Dominguez.
"It's been a really good week, not just because I've been able to make the semifinals, but also because of how I've been playing. I like myself out there again, and I think my coach is happy too."
From a low of World No.242 in 2017, Diyas has stormed back up the rankings in the last year and did what she could to reverse the deficit against the Russian. Down a set and a break, the former World No.31 leveled the second set at two games apiece before Pavlyuchenkova ran away with the encounter, striking 17 winners to Diyas' 11.
"Once you're in the semifinals, you think more about the trophy because you're getting closer and closer. But I try to keep the excitement down so I can keep producing good tennis, because I think that's even more important than results or trophies."
Up next for the former French Open quarterfinalist will be top seed Ashleigh Barty, who kicked off quarterfinal day with a straight-set win over Wang Qiang.
More comfortable on faster courts, the young Aussie has shown potential on the terre battue - particularly in doubles, where she finished runner-up at last year's Roland Garros with Casey Dellacqua and won the Internazionali BNL d'Italia last week with Demi Schuurs.