Schiavone rallies for win
Francesca Schiavone (File)
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.
"It was very difficult for me at the start of the match. I haven't been playing well on centre court, but I hope to do so in the semi-finals," said Schiavone.
"To win the title again I will have to beat two great players."
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.