Ten years after reaching her first Grand Slam quarter-final, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova made it through to the last four for the first time to set up a clash with Tamara Zidansek at the French Open.
The Russian was an exceptional junior and her breakthrough at Roland Garros as a 19-year-old seemed the first step to greater things.
But so far she has not managed to live up to the sky-high internal and external expectations of her, falling five more times in quarter-finals and never making it further.
She finally took that next step at the age of 29 thanks to a gruelling 6-7 (2) 6-2 9-7 victory over Serena Williams’s conqueror Elena Rybakina.
The young Kazakh did not serve as well as she had against Williams and a double fault on Pavlyuchenkova’s first match point decided the contest after two hours and 33 minutes.
Earlier, surprise package Zidansek prevailed in another dramatic tussle with Paula Badosa.
The Slovenian, who had never previously been beyond the second round at a Grand Slam, was the outsider of the unexpected quarter-final line-up but she held her nerve when it counted to win 7-5 4-6 8-6.
Zidansek looked poised for a more comfortable victory when she led by a set and a break but Badosa fought back and led early in the decider.
The Spaniard was also playing in her first Slam quarter-final but she has won more matches than any other woman on clay this season and went into the tournament as a dark horse.
That pressure was evident for a set and a half, with Badosa struggling to play freely while Zidansek handled the occasion superbly.
The 23-year-old reached the final of a claycourt tournament in Colombia in April so had some form behind her but, at 85 in the rankings, she is certainly one of the more unexpected Slam semi-finalists of reason years.
From a set and 4-2 down, Badosa began to make her power count and a run of six games in a row put her in the ascendancy. But back came Zidansek and a forehand winner gave her victory on her second match point after two hours and 26 minutes.
Zidansek looked stunned afterwards, and she said: “It feels overwhelming. It’s hard to take it in this fast. But I’m just trying to focus on my game, on myself.
“Of course it was a great opportunity for the both of us to get into the semi-finals, but I guess I managed to keep my composure today a little bit better than her. But still, it was a tough battle in the end.”
Zidansek, who was a champion snowboarder as a child, knocked out sixth seed Bianca Andreescu in the first round, and she added: “Winning the first round was a big breakthrough for me. I got a lot of confidence from that.
“Before the tournament I was feeling really good. I was playing good, especially on clay.
“I would say that my mindset was stay focused, be aggressive. I knew that I can do a lot of damage with my forehand. I’ve just got to get into the right position. That’s exactly what I managed to do.”
Badosa admitted she was unable to handle her nerves, saying: “It was a tough one. I think she played a good match. I didn’t feel myself in the whole match.
“I’m a little bit sad about that because I think I played maybe the worst match of the tournament and of the clay season, but sometimes it’s like that.
“I think I was very nervous. I couldn’t control the nerves during the entire match. But at least I fought until the last moment and I had my chances.
“It’s complicated the first time when you’re in a quarter-finals. When you want it so, so much, maybe sometimes it’s a little bit too much, and I was putting a little bit too much pressure on myself. If I have another opportunity like this, I will try to change.”