2021 French Open: The unlikely final four
Photo: Anne-Christine Pojoulat/AFP via Getty Images

The women's draw at the French Open has, as every recent major, been littered with upsets, but the events of the last two weeks in Paris seen it taken to a different level with none of the remaining players having reached a major semifinal, only the second time that's happened in the Open era.

This fortnight has seen the tournament favorite bow out in the quarterfinals, the top-ranked player in the world gone after round three with an injury and the second-ranked player withdraw due to mental health reasons.

With championship weekend on tap, VAVEL takes a look at the four women remaining, each long shots in their own right, as they battle for a major title no one could have seen them winning when the championship started.

Tamara Zidansek

The Slovenian is, on paper, the longest shot left in the draw. Ranked 85th, she's the first woman from her country to reach the final four at a Slam. Armed with a powerful forehand and determination to match, she's knocked out sixth seed Bianca Andreescu and 33rd seed Paula Badosa in extended third sets.

Having never been past the second round of any major before her stunning run in Paris, Zidansek will continue to be to play the role of underdog as she looks for two more wins that would make her the biggest shock major champion since Chris O'Neil triumphed at the 1978 Australian Open.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Arguably the favorite amongst the ladies remaining, the Russian is the most accomplished of the semifinalists having won 12 titles and reaching six previous major quarterfinals and losing all of them in very different fashion. Her game is ideally suited for the clay, but the knock on Pavlyuchenkova throughout her career has always been her ability to close out big matches.

That narrative has been erased during this Roland Garros as she's beaten third seed Aryna Sabalenka, 15th seed Victoria Azarenka and 21st seed Elena Rybakina in three sets, the last two from a set down. The only question left for the 31st seed is how will she handle the pressure of being the one to beat?

Barbora Krejcikova

Long known as one of the best doubles players in the world with eight doubles titles, including five majors, and 12 weeks ranked as the world number one, the Czech is currently at a career-high 33rd in singles. She picked up her first singles title in Strasbourg and has gone a couple of rounds further than her best previous finish at a major, which was the fourth round here last year.

What may help Krejcikova over championship weekend is two things. First, she's quietly gone about her business without much attention, defeating fifth seed Elina Svitolina, 2018 finalist Sloane Stephens and Cori Gauff. Second, and more importantly, is her experience in the later rounds of Slams in doubles. She won't feel the pressure, and as a result, may be holding the trophy come Saturday.

Maria Sakkari

The 17th seed has probably the steadiest and sturdiest game among the four semifinalists. You know what you're going to get with Sakkari: a fierce competitor who won't give an inch. She has the best win of anyone left having upset defending champion and heavy favorite Iga Swiatek in the quarterfinals.

Having reached the round of 16 at a Slam twice before, Sakkari, like everyone else, is venturing into new territory. If she can carry over the form that she had against Swiatek, she'll be awfully tough to beat, but will she feel the nerves that have so often plagued her in big matches previously?

Final thoughts

So that's a quick overview of the four semifinalists remaining. The matchups are Krejcikova vs Sakkari and Pavlyuchenkova vs Zidansek. Regardless of the outcome of the final three matches, tennis fans should enjoy the remainder of the tournament as this quartet of ladies has given us history we won't soon forget.

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