Francesca Schiavone will become the first Italian woman to play in a grand slam final tomorrow when she takes on Samantha Stosur in the climax of the French Open, the latest surprise in a week full of them at Roland Garros. Schiavone, the No 17 seed, got through to the final when Elena Dementieva retired from their semi-final with a left calf injury after losing the first set on a tie-break 7-6 yesterday. Stosur, the world No 7, then became the first Australian woman in 30 years to reach a grand slam final by thrashing Jelena Jankovic, the former world No 1, 6-1, 6-2. Both Schiavone and Stosur are first-time grand slam finalists. "We're both out here to enjoy it," Stosur said. Stosur won with the same big serve and booming forehand that helped her upset Justine Henin, the four-time French Open champion, and Serena Williams, the 12-time grand slam winner, in the previous two rounds. The two semi-finals lasted barely two hours between them, and the first match ended abruptly. After Dementieva lost the first set, she walked up to Schiavone 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 quarter-final 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 quarter-finals 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 has retired in a semi-final 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 semi-final 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. Her 20-2 record this year on clay is the best on the women's WTA tour. The first semi-final was over in 69 minutes, and the ending came as a surprise. Schiavone said she was unaware of any injury, and Dementieva did not 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." * AP