x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Schiavone books French Open last-four spot

The defending champion Francesca Schiavone battled from a set and 4-1 down to defeat Russian teenager Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to reach the semi-finals.

The defending champion Francesca Schiavone battled from a set and 4-1 down to defeat Russian teenager Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to reach the French Open semi-finals yesterday.

Schiavone, 30, who last year became the first Italian woman to win a grand slam title, 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.

The fifth-seeded Schiavone will face the 11th-seeded Marion Bartoli of France for a place in the final. Bartoli defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6, 6-4.

"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," Schiavone said. "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 the 19-year-old Pavlyuchenkova, the 2006 world junior champion, clinched a third break in the key seventh game to take the set.

The Italian managed to win just two points on the teen's serve in a woefully under-par 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 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 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.

* Agence France-Presse