Marion Bartoli will be hoping to become the first Frenchwoman since Mary Pierce to reach the final at Roland Garros when she takes on defending champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy on Thursday.
AFP - Defending champion Francesca Schiavone pits her Italian passion against Marion Bartoli's hyper-active French intensity on Thursday with a place in the French Open final at stake.
Schiavone, the first Italian woman to win a Grand Slam title when she triumphed in Paris last year, has a 4-1 career lead over the spiky Bartoli, who will be playing in her first Roland Garros semi-final.
The 30-year-old Italian reached the last four the hard way, fighting back from a set and 4-1 down against Russian teenager Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 11 years her junior.
"I live and I love tennis, when I can express myself," said the Milanese native, whose tennis, based around an all-court game and fierce one-handed hitting off both flanks, continues to defy the odds.
"I think now everybody is really fit and ready for all kinds of matches and every kind of surface. So the young players are coming, but it is not easy to win.
"If you are 30 years old, you can use experience, the body, the mind. So for a young player it is much tougher now than before."
Bartoli, the 2007 Wimbledon runner-up, is only the fourth Frenchwoman to make the semi-finals here in the Open era.
Mary Pierce was the last semi-finalist in 2005 and she was also the last French winner, back in 2000.
Like Pierce, Bartoli has endured a rollercoaster of a relationship with the French media and crowds, not to mention her country's tennis federation and fellow players.
But the 26-year-old, who has been coached by her father Walter since she was six, believes she is finally learning to love Roland Garros, where she had never got beyond the fourth round in 10 previous visits.
After seeing off 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6 (7/4), 6-4 in her quarter-final, Bartoli said the reception she received from the crowd made her happier than when she reached the Wimbledon final four years ago.
"Even at Wimbledon I never felt as excited as I was today. The crowd and the support in my home Grand Slam, I thought, 'My God'," she said.
"In the past I always felt the pressure. I worried about what the press might say if I lost and I was going on the court without any confidence. But this year I told myself to use that pressure and put it on the opponent."
Bartoli said she will ignore her losing record against Schiavone on Thursday, as well as the Italian's status as the defending champion.
"The CV of your opponent doesn't change the way she will hit a forehand or a backhand."
Bartoli also defended her habit of constantly leaping back and forth on the baseline and taking practice swings while her opponent is in her service action.
Kuznetsova described it as "weird and frustrating".
"It's my way of staying focused," explained Bartoli. "It's to release the pressure of the scoreboard. Clay is not my best surface so I need to keep being proactive."
Date created : 2011-06-02