Last year’s French Open Champion, Francesca Schiavone of Italy, refuses to pack her bags and disappear into the night. At Roland Garros this year, Schiavone has survived every test and despite a sub par season, the 29-year old defending champion is clinging to her title. In her toughest test of the tournament, the 5th seed started fast against the 10th seed Jelena Jankovic, but lost the momentum in the second set and seemed on the brink of elimination.

Francesca Schiavone celebrates after victory over Jelena Jankovic during French Open 2011

Francesca Schiavone celebrates after victory over Jelena Jankovic during French Open 2011

Most analysts thought Schiavone would be long gone by the quarterfinals. In the wake of Jankovic’s hot play of late, the fleet-footed Italian found herself as an underdog. When she lost the second set to Jankovic, Schiavone doubters were sure the diminutive champion was finished.

Just as she did last year, Schiavone approached the third set with renewed determination much to the surprise of Jankovic. Schiavone began to track down every ball. In the two hour 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 match, Schiavone was the more tenacious competitor. Jankovic had the bigger serve and the bigger game but Francesca was dogged in her pursuit of the win.

Anastasia Pavlychenkova

Anastasia Pavlychenkova

The spunky Italian not only looks like a solid defending champion but the path to the championship is clearly before her. Schiavone will meet Russia’s most powerful youngster, Anastasia Pavlychenkova. The 14 seed overwhelmed the third seed, Vera Zvonareva, in three well played sets 7-6 (4), 2-6- 6-2. The match featured bursts of power tennis at its best. In the end, the young Russian toppled the elder Russian with a burst in the third set. Overall, Anastasia struck 45 outright winners.

In another round of sixteen pairing, Daniela Hantuchova may have downed top seeded Caroline Wozniacki but when push came to shove, the Slovakian could not contain Svetlana Kuznetsova. The former champion came back after losing a tight first set to reach the semifinals. In the tense 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-2 match, Kuznetsova’s renewed commitment to physical training allowed her to impose her will on the younger Daniela.

In her quarterfinal match, Kuznetsova will need to keep her composure against surging Marion Bartoli of the host country. Marion defeated veteran Argentine Gisela Dulko 7-5, 1-0 when Dulko was forced to retire. Bartoli has been in form at Roland Garros and will give Kuznetsova a battle in the quarterfinals.

Four berths in the quarterfinals will be at stake tomorrow as the 4th and lowest remaining seed, Victoria Azarenka, will face another young Russian Ekaterina Makarova while Maria Sharapova will do battle with steady Aggie Radwanska. Petra Kvitova will tangle with 6th seed Li Na. Germany’s Andrea Petkovic will play Russian beauty Maria Kirilenko.


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