Schiavone, Stosur advance to first grand slam final

Francesca Schiavone will play Samantha Stosur in Saturday’s French Open final, the latest surprise in a week full of them at Roland Garros.

Samantha Stosur beat Jelena Jankovic to advance to the French Open  final at Roland Garros in Paris

Samantha Stosur beat Jelena Jankovic to advance to the French Open final at Roland Garros in Paris

PARIS — Francesca Schiavone will play Samantha Stosur in Saturday’s French Open final, the latest surprise in a week full of them at Roland Garros.

The 17th-seeded Schiavone became the first Italian woman to reach a major final when opponent Elena Dementieva unexpectedly retired from their semifinal with a left calf injury after losing the first set 7-6 (3) on Thursday.

No. 7 Stosur then became the first Australian woman in 30 years to reach a Grand Slam final by drubbing former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic 6-1, 6-2.

Both Schiavone and Stosur are first-time Grand Slam finalists.

“We’re both out here to enjoy it,” Stosur said. “We’re both going to be excited. It’s a great opportunity for both of us.”

Stosur won 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.

The two semifinals lasted barely two hours between them, and the first match ended abruptly. After Dementieva lost the first set, she walked up to Schiavone, who was sitting in her changeover chair, and extended a hand in concession.

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

The Italian then fell to her knees to kiss the court in a reprise of her quarterfinal celebration, and rose with a clay-caked grin.

How did the clay taste?

“It was good,” Schiavone said. “So good.”

The 29-year-old Schiavone had never previously advanced beyond the quarterfinals in a Grand Slam.

“I’ve already made history for my country,” she said. “In Italy, also, they are very happy, and is time to enjoy for us, for everybody.”

While Italians celebrated, 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.”

The second match was even shorter than the first, lasting only an hour. Stosur became the first Australian woman to reach a Grand Slam final since Wendy Turnbull, the runner-up at the 1980 Australian Open.

“I can’t believe I’m here,” Stosur told the crowd after the match. “It wasn’t easy to get here. I’m very pleased.”

She began the semifinal swinging with the same confidence she showed in her earlier upsets, and after falling behind 2-0 in the second set, she swept the final six games. Stosur hit seven aces, lost only six points on her first serve and doubled the overmatched Jankovic in winners, 18-9.

“She’s a strong girl,” Jankovic said. “You can see by looking at her physically. She can hit pretty big, and she has one of the strongest serves in the women’s game.”

Long regarded as a doubles specialist, Stosur cracked the top 10 for the first time last month. She’s now 6-19 against top-five opponents — and 2-0 this week. Her 20-2 record this year on clay is the best on the women’s tour.

The first semifinal was over in 69 minutes, and the ending came as a surprise. Schiavone said she was unaware of any injury, and Dementieva didn’t seek treatment from a trainer during the set.

“I had seen the trainer for so many hours before the match,” Dementieva 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.”

Seeded fifth, Dementieva was seeking her first Grand Slam title playing in her 46th major event. She said might be forced to skip Wimbledon this month.

Schiavone rallied from a 2-0 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.

The women’s final will be the fifth at a major tournament in the Open era between two first-time Grand Slam finalists.

In the men’s semifinals on Friday, four-time champion Rafael Nadal plays Jurgen Melzer of Austria, who never advanced beyond the third round in his previous 31 major tournaments. Another first-time Grand Slam semifinalist, Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, faces last year’s runner-up, No. 5 Robin Soderling.