Schiavone into historic final
Francesca Schiavone (AFP)
Paris - Francesca Schiavone became the first Italian woman to reach a Grand Slam final on Thursday when Russia's Elena Dementieva retired at the end of the first set of their Roland Garros semi-final.
The 29-year-old Italian won the opener 7-6 (7/3) when fifth seeded Dementieva, who had been suffering from a groin injury, quit in tears after 70 minutes on court.
Schiavone will face either Australia's Samantha Stosur or Jelena Jankovic of Serbia in Saturday's final.
The tearful conclusion to the match extended Dementieva's unwanted record of having played 46 Grand Slam tournaments without winning a major title, the longest streak in the women's game.
Having been the runner-up in 2004, she was the overwhelming favourite to reach Saturday's title match.
"I don't know what was wrong. Her decision took me by surprise," said Schiavone, who reached the semi-final by knocking out world number three Caroline Wozniacki in the last eight.
"But if she pulled out, it must be for a good reason.
"It's fantastic to get to the final. It's a great emotion. I have made history for my country and for myself."
Schiavone, the first Italian woman to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since Silvia Lazzarano here in 1954, wasted break points in the fourth and sixth games of the first set and the Russian made her pay with a break to lead 4-3.
But Schiavone, who will move into the top 10 for the first time next week, levelled in the next game when Dementieva served up her second double fault of the tie and 34th of the tournament.
In such an error-strewn affair, played on a hot, breezy afternoon on Court Philippe Chatrier, and with neither woman able to seize the initiative, it was no surprise that a tiebreak was required.
From 0-2 down, Schiavone took the next six points and then the set when Dementieva unleashed a wild backhand.
It was the Russian's 24th unforced error of the match and, as it turned out, her last as she then walked over to her opponent to shake hands before leaving the court with her head bowed.