PARIS, France - Serena Williams just wouldn't let go on Court Suzanne Lenglen on Tuesday, reviving her game after a mid-match lapse to get past Svetlana Kuznetsova, not only avenging her loss to the Russian in the 2009 quarterfinals, but reaching the semifinals here for the first time in 10 years.
Kuznetsova came into Roland Garros ranked No.39 and unseeded but it didn't matter, as she stormed through the draw - including wins over No.22 seed Ekaterina Makarova and No.8 seed Angelique Kerber - and repeated her quarterfinal effort from the Australian Open. And not only had she beaten World No.1s six times before in her career, but she had beaten Williams twice before too - including right here on this court, in this round, four years ago. She went on to win the title that year.
The first set went to the No.1-seeded Williams handily, 6-1, but right from the start of the second set Kuznetsova began coming through on all the promise, winning the first four games and, after a mini-fightback from Williams, closing the set out, 6-3. She even went ahead 2-0 in the third set.
"She started playing better and I didn't get ready for that, so to say," Williams said. "Even though she was up 5-1 or 5-2 in the second, it easily could have been 2-all or 4-all or something, or 3-all I should say. I made some key errors. But I didn't have time to dwell on that because it was in the moment and I couldn't think negative. I had to stay positive and try to start making more shots at that point."
Williams ended up winning a marathon game to put a halt to the momentum and close to 2-1, and from there she ran away with it, blasting a forehand swinging volley winner - her 37th winner of the match - to close Kuznetsova out, 61 36 63. The World No.1 let out a scream of triumph afterwards.
"I was so determined to get through that match, and I really, really, really wanted it more than anyone, I think," Williams said afterwards. "I was really just fighting, giving it everything I had out there.
"I've been able to come back a lot throughout my career. I don't think anything really changed."
"She's an unbelievable competitor," Kuznetsova said of Williams. "She turns on her game when she needs it. She serves well and she's got the game, of course - and that's why she is where she is."
Williams will play the No.5 seed, Sara Errani, in the semifinals, following her win over No.4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska (read more here). Williams has beaten Errani in all five previous meetings.
"We had a pretty tough match in Madrid - I'm glad I played her in Madrid because I know she's here to play and she's here to compete," Williams said. "She's so serious. I can be ready for that."
Williams is now 7-2 against Kuznetsova, but many of their matches have been tight like this one.
"She's such a great player," Williams said. "She's taken a little time off due to injury, but she's been consistent, at least in the Slams. She got to the quarterfinals of Australia and here. She's won two Grand Slams as well, and that doesn't take luck - it takes a really good player to achieve that.
"There are so many things about her that make her such a really good player."
Kuznetsova - who is working her way back up the rankings this year after missing the second half of last year with a knee injury - may have been disappointed with the loss, but happy as a whole.
"I was looking around at the crowd in some moments and thinking about how I was lying back with my broken knee in my bed last year and thinking how I didn't want to play the US Open because I was so tired. I couldn't even walk. I was with crutches all the time. So I have to be proud of what I've done.
"I'm extremely pleased with the way I performed here. I just need to keep going the same way."