French Open gets pair of 1st-time Grand Slam finalists: Francesca Schiavone, Samantha Stosur

By Steven Wine, AP
Thursday, June 3, 2010

Schiavone to meet Stosur in French final

PARIS — Australian Samantha Stosur has advanced to her first Grand Slam final by beating Jelena Jankovic (Yell-E-nuh YAN-ko-vitch) at the French Open, 6-1, 6-2.

Seeded seventh, Stosur won Thursday with the same big serve and booming forehand that helped her upset four-time French Open champion Justine Henin and 12-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams this week.

Stosur’s opponent Saturday will be another first-time Grand Slam finalist, Francesca Schiavone (Fran-CHESS-skah Skee-ah-VOH-nay) of Italy. Schiavone advanced when Elena Dementieva (Yell-E-nuh De-MENT-ye-vuh) quit with an injury after the first set.

Stosur is the first Australian woman to reach a Grand Slam final since Wendy Turnbull, the runner-up at the 1980 Australian Open.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

PARIS (AP) — Francesca Schiavone became the first Italian woman to reach a Grand Slam final Thursday, and the first person to offer congratulations was her semifinal opponent, Elena Dementieva.

The handshake came in concession after only one set.

Dementieva unexpectedly retired with a left calf injury after losing the first set 7-6 (3). She left the court shaking her head and walked up to Schiavone, who was sitting in her changeover chair, before extending a hand.

“For the moment, I don’t understand what’s going on,” Schiavone said.

Dementieva sobbed before heading for the exit. It’s the first time in the Open era that a woman retired in a semifinal or final at Roland Garros.

The Russian said she suffered a tear in her calf in the second round, and she nearly retired during a match last week.

“It was very painful to even walk,” Dementieva said. “It was a bit too much. I couldn’t really move on the court.”

Stunned at first, Schiavone broke into a grin, then fell to her knees to kiss the clay in a reprise of her quarterfinal celebration.

“I’ve already made history for my country,” she said.

At 29, she had never previously advanced beyond the quarterfinals in a Grand Slam. On Saturday she’ll play the winner of the second semifinal between No. 4-seeded Jelena Jankovic and No. 7 Samantha Stosur.

It’s the first time at a major tournament since 1979 that none of the four female semifinalists owned a major title.

Dementieva, who was seeded fifth, didn’t seek treatment from a trainer during the 69-minute first set.

“I had seen trainer for so many hours before the match,” she said. “I don’t think they could do something else that could really help me at that point.”

She said she likely would have retired even if she had won the first set.

“It is disappointing to get injured and not use this chance to get further,” she said. “But what can I do? I cannot change anything.”

Dementieva said might be forced to skip Wimbledon later this month.

The No. 17-seeded Schiavone rallied from a 2-love deficit to win the tiebreaker. Each player lost serve only once in the set, but Dementieva had twice as many errors, 24-12, and double-faulted four times.

Schiavone is projected to crack the top 10 for the first time next week. She’s the first Italian to reach a Grand Slam final since Adriano Panatta won the 1976 Roland Garros men’s title.

Eager to reassert himself as the king of clay, Rafael Nadal has been immune to the recent wave of upsets at Roland Garros. The four-time champion advanced Wednesday to the final four by beating fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-4.

“When I am in semifinals, it’s very good news for me,” Nadal said.

His opponent Friday will be journeyman Jurgen Melzer, who joined the upset trend by rallying past No. 3-seeded Novak Djokovic 3-6, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (3), 6-4. Melzer never advanced beyond the third round in his previous 31 Grand Slam tournaments.

There was also a shocker on the women’s side — top-ranked Serena Williams lost to Australian spoiler Stosur 6-2, 6-7 (2), 8-6.

The surprises began Monday, when Stosur ended four-time champion Justine Henin’s Roland Garros winning streak at 24 matches. On Tuesday, top-ranked Roger Federer lost to Robin Soderling.

Williams’ loss made it three players with a collective 35 Grand Slam titles missing from the semifinals.

Yet Nadal’s still standing. In fact, he has won all 15 sets in the tournament. He has a career record of 36-1 at Roland Garros, with the only loss to Soderling last year, and he’s 20-0 on clay in 2010.

Seeded second, he’s a heavy title favorite now that defending champion Federer has been eliminated.

“Sorry for him,” Nadal said in broken English, “because he did amazing last year, and he deserved this title more than no one. Right now there is no one favorite.”

He said that mindful that Soderling lurks as a possible opponent in the final, which would mean a rematch of last year’s stunner. But through five rounds, Nadal has been as dominant as ever on clay, controlling rallies and returning aggressively.

“I played against Rafa,” Almagro said. “Had I been playing against another opponent, who knows what might have happened?”

Nadal saved his best for big points. He outscored Almagro 14-5 in the tiebreakers. The rest of the match, the margin was 103-101.

“I am very happy how I played the tiebreaks,” Nadal said. “I played very aggressive, very focused, and in important moments I think I played better than the rest of the match. That’s a very good news, no?”

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