Battling Schiavone reaches French Open semi-finals
Paris: Defending champion Francesca Schiavone battled from a set and 4-1 down to defeat Russian teenager Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and reach the French Open semi-finals on Tuesday.
The 30-year-old, who became the first Italian woman to win a Grand Slam title when she triumphed last year, clinched a 1-6, 7-5, 7-5 win in a mistake-strewn quarter-final that featured 13 breaks of serve and 79 unforced errors.
Fifth seed Schiavone will face either Russian 13th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2009 champion, or 11th-seeded Marion Bartoli of France for a place in the final.
Despite being 11 years older than the Russian, Schiavone said her experience had paid off in a tense finale.
"On 6-1, 4-1, I said `keep going`. The key is to hit three, four, five, six, seven balls, but I couldn`t hit three, four. So at 4-1, I played two really good games.
"Then she went a little bit down, and when I caught her. I say `keep going. I am here. If I have to lose, I have to lose in the right way`."
Pavyluchenkova, playing in her first Grand Slam quarter-final, said she had paid for not applying the killer blow when she was ahead in the second set.
"I lost my concentration at 4-1 in the second. I was dictating the game but then I wasn`t aggressive enough, and I just didn`t serve well," she said.
"She was putting a lot of balls in. It was really tough for me to attack them because they were high. I didn`t feel power anymore. She had courage, and it was tough to stop her."
Schiavone struggled in the chilly, blustery conditions on Court Philippe Chatrier in the first set.
She was broken twice on her way to a 4-0 deficit in the opener before 19-year-old Pavlyuchenkova, the 2006 world junior champion, clinched a third break in the key seventh game to take the set 6-1.
The Italian managed to win just two points on the teenage Russian`s serve in a woefully under-par first-set performance.
But her greater experience paid off in the second set when she overturned a 4-1 deficit to win six of the next seven games to level the tie as the Russian`s game fell apart.
A running backhand pass gave Schiavone a break in the opening game of the decider and she was soon 3-0 ahead as Pavlyuchenkova`s game was made to look increasingly one-dimensional.
The sturdy Russian retrieved one of the breaks to go to 1-3, but Schiavone hit straight back to stretch to 4-1.
In a topsy-turvy final set, which featured seven breaks of serve, the Italian went to 5-1 before squandering a chance to serve for the match at 5-2 when she was broken to love.
Pavlyuchenkova held for 4-5 and broke to level at 5-5 before lazily handing the initiative back to Schiavone in the 11th game.
The Russian saved one match point with a wrong-footing forehand off a short approach and another with a forehand off a weak second serve.
A deft drop shot took the Italian to a third match point, however, and she celebrated victory when Pavlyuchenkova batted back a tame backhand that was eagerly gobbled up by the champion.