Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Schiavone survives scare to reach semis

Defending champion Francesca Schiavone dug herself out of a huge hole to beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 1-6 7-5 7-5 and reach the semi-finals of the French Open.

The fifth seed looked to be heading out of the tournament when she trailed 4-1 in the second set but Schiavone is certainly a fighter and she gradually reeled Pavlyuchenkova back in.

A couple of superb one-handed backhands enabled the Italian to break for a 6-5 lead in the second set and from there it seemed there was only going to be one winner.

Pavlyuchenkova, the world's best teenager at 15th in the rankings, had knocked out third seed Vera Zvonareva to reach the last eight at a grand slam for the first time in her career.

The Russian continued to fight hard but her chances looked slim at best when Schiavone moved into a 5-1 lead.

There was another twist to come, though, as Pavlyuchenkova defied her flagging fortunes to win three games in succession. She then created two break points when Schiavone served for the match for a second time, taking the second with a mis-hit return.

From 5-5, though, the Russian faltered again, losing her serve and then finally succumbing as Schiavone served out for a place in the last four against either Svetlana Kuznetsova or Marion Bartoli.

Schiavone felt her extra experience had helped her against such a young opponent, saying: ‘The more I play, the better I play. That's always been the case. I started much too slowly. But by the end I felt much better and I could play better tennis.

‘She played really well but maybe she has less experience than me. Today I think I used my 30 years.’
The expressive Italian was a hugely popular winner when she beat Samantha Stosur last year and she delighted Court Philippe Chatrier again today.
She said: ‘I love tennis when I can express myself. I am transparent, so you can understand how I play and how I feel. Maybe I shouldn't show so much. I am like this on the court and off it.

‘I was 6-1 4-1 down and I was saying, “Francie, this is the way things go. Today it is like this. Keep going”. I was really sad inside, but what can you do? Nobody could change things except me.’

Schiavone's fightback continued a theme at Roland Garros this year, with Maria Sharapova, Li Na and Vera Zvonareva all winning matches they looked favourites to lose while Kim Clijsters blew a big lead against Arantxa Rus.

The Italian gave credit to the surface, saying: ‘Clay always gives you a chance. Grass and hard courts, much less so. On clay you have to go to the net and shake hands before you can say the match is finished.’
Pavlyuchenkova, 19, admitted the situation got to her and praised Schiavone for her comeback.

‘It was very tough match and it's very difficult to lose this kind of match,’ said the Russian.
‘I'll just try to move on and I will try to take all the positive things. It's very good experience. It's my first quarter-final and it's never easy to play a good game and to win easily in the quarter-finals, especially against Francesca. She was really great today.’

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