French Open title beckons for late bloomers


AFP, Paris

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and BarboraKrejcikova, two of the most unlikely Grand Slam finalists of the modern era, meet in Saturday's French Open title match at the conclusion of a shock-heavy tournament.

World number 32 Pavlyuchenkova has reached this stage for the first time at the 52nd attempt, 10 years after making a first Slam quarter-final in Paris.

Krejcikova, ranked one place lower, has long been labelled a doubles specialist and this is just her fifth appearance in a main draw singles at the Slams, having never previously got beyond the last 16.

However, both women have capitalised on a draw where the top seeds fell and just kept falling.

World number one and 2019 champion Ashleigh Barty hobbled out in the second round.

Serena Williams was knocked out in the fourth round, world number two Naomi Osaka withdrew after one match while 2018 champion Simona Halep never even made it to Paris.

"The 14-year-old me would tell me 'What took you so long?'," said 29-year-old Pavlyuchenkova who played her first Slam event in 2007.

"It's been a long road. I had my own long special road. Everybody has different ways. I'm happy I'm in the final." Pavlyuchenkova is bidding to become the fourth Russian champion at Roland Garros after Anastasia Myskina (2004), Svetlana Kuznetsova (2009) and Maria Sharapova (2012 and 2014).

Always considered to possess the weapons to win a major -- she has 37 career wins over top 10 players -- Pavlyuchenkovawas often written off as "too nice" to succeed when it mattered most.