Russian players have done quite well at the 2011 French Open; six of them made it to the round of 16. Only one, Maria Sharapova, is left, however, as two more went out today at the hands of the defending champion and the French number 1.
It's quite difficult to adequately describe what went on the quarterfinal match between defending champion Francesca Schiavone and Russian "teen queen" Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. It's more of a "you had to be there" (so to speak) thing. During the first set, 5th seed Schiavone played the way she has played for much of this season--making continual errors, even when she has set up winners. Pavlyuchenkova gets credit, also--she really took it to Schiavone in that set, and won it, 6-1. But only a casual observer would have made the mistake of thinking the match was over at the conclusion of that first set. The best really was yet to come.
The wind swept the court as Schiavone held at love in the first game of the second set. Was this a "message"? Absolutely. The defending champion had come out of her metaphorical stupor--more or less. But Pavlyuchenkova went up 3-1, and when she served for 4-1, she went up 40-0. Schiavone saved two game points, but the Russian held. 4-1, as I have written before, is often a deceptively good scoreline, and this set proved my point. Schiavone held her serve, then broke Pavlyuchenkova.
Schiavone held again, then Pavlyuchenkova went down 0-40, and was broken at 30. Schiavone then served for the set, and won it, 6-4. Schiavone went up 3-1 in the final set, and before you could say "Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova," the Italian was serving for the match at 5-2.
And this is when the momentum swung again. Pavlyuchenkova broke her opponent, and held. Schiavone served for the match a second time, but had to deal with two break points. She saved one with an ace, but was broken on the second one.
By this time, with a distinct chill in the air and red dust continuing to blow around Court Philippe Chatrier, the tension was as thick as stromboli. Pavlyuchenkova, who--just a moment before--looked invincible, went down 0-30. She hung in for a while, but was eventually broken when Schiavone hit a wicked crosscourt forehand that landed right on the line.
Schiavone, who is nothing if not patient, served for the match a third time. She went up 30-0 right away, then Pavlyuchenkova made a point, then--as if there weren't already enough drama--the defending champion had a string break on her racquet. She got a new racquet, then she got a match point. Pavlyuchenkova saved that, and even managed to get a break point, but didn't convert. Schiavone got a second match point, which her opponent saved with a beautiful forehand down the line.
But enough was enough. Schiavone hit a perfect drop shot to get her third match point, and she won the match 1-6, 7-5, 7-5 when she picked up a volley and drove it past Pavlyuchenkova.
The second quarterfinal of the day wasn't as dramatic, but it was very good, and featured some quality shot-making by both Svetlana Kuznetsova and Marion Bartoli, seeded 13 and 11, respectively. The wind was blowing on Court Suzanne Lenglen, too, and Bartoli (who can be very mentally tough, but is often physically fragile) brought some of her best tennis to defeat 2009 champion Kuznetsova (who is physically tough, but often mentally fragile).
The crowd cheered strongly for Bartoli, who has bolstered this entire tournament by the belief and enthusiasm of her countrywomen and -men. The rallies were intense, and when Bartoli broke Kuznetsova at 4-3, the crowd went wild as she served for the first set. But while the crowd was for her, the wind was not, and Bartoli was broken. The set went to a tiebreak, which Bartoli won.
The Frenchwoman went up a quick break in the second set. At 2-4, Kuznetsova saved a break point, but was eventually broken, anyway. The crowd, in the meantime, was an entity in itself, and there were plenty of waves and impromptu cheers. But once again, when Bartoli served--this time, for the match--she was broken. Kuznetsova then went up 40-15. Bartoli saved two game points, but the Russian answered with two un-returnable serves. At 5-4, Bartoli served for the match a second time (sound familiar?), and this time, Kuznetsova obliged her with some big errors.
Bartoli will play Schiavone in the semifinals, which--from a French point of view--is an unfortunate draw (I'm not too happy with it, either, given how I don't want either to lose). French spectators will watch their defending champion play against their home favorite, and one of those two women will be in the final.
In the meantime, there were two doubles quarterfinals played, also. 3rd seeds Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova defeated 9th seeds Nadia Petrova and Anastasia Rodionova 7-5. 3-6, 6-2, and 4th seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond defeated 5th seeds Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko 6-4. 4-6, 6-4. Petrova and partner Jamie Murray also reached the semifinals in mixed doubles.
Finally, though she is most surely disappointed, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova should be commended for not only reaching her first major quarterfinal, but also for helping to make that quarterfinal thrilling. Things are looking up for the teen queen.