STRASBOURG, France - Francesca Schiavone continued to resurrect her game at the Internationaux de Strasbourg on Friday, beating Sloane Stephens to reach her first WTA final since almost exactly a year ago.
Schiavone, who has made the last two French Open finals - winning the title in 2010 and finishing runner-up to Li Na in 2011 - had gone 2-7 on clay this year, a far cry from the star who had shone so brightly in Paris the last few years.
Seeded No.2 in Strasbourg, Schiavone's game has clicked all over again, as she lost a total of just nine games in her first three rounds and is now through to the final after a 75 61 win over Stephens - the Italian veteran had to rally from an early break down to win the first set then cruised through the second.
"The first set wasn't great. I was using what was there in that moment and just tried to keep going," Schiavone said. "It wasn't easy today. It was windy, and it's particularly difficult when you play against the wind, because you have to push hard and stay down with your legs, and be consistent - it's hard to make great shots, so you just have to study how to play the best way, then do it.
"Sloane can play really well, so I had to use my experience. It wasn't great tennis, but it was important to win and I'm very happy to be in the final."
Stephens was playing in her first WTA semifinal. "It wasn't the best day - there wasn't a lot of clay on the courts because it was so windy - but it's okay, you can't really do anything about it," she said. "It was a good week though. It was an overwhelming week, actually. My first semifinal, which was a great result.
"Francesca's a great player - she's No.10 in the world or something, ranked very highly. I was just trying to do my best. It was a tough one, but it was fun."
The second semifinal was an all-French affair between two players who had sprung big upsets earlier in the week - Pauline Parmentier having taken out No.1 seed Sabine Lisicki and Alizé Cornet beating No.4 seed Anabel Medina Garrigues. On the day it was Cornet who came out on top, recovering from a marathon first set and winning a one-hour third set to prevail, 46 61 63.
Cornet is also undergoing somewhat of a resurrection - after peaking at No.11 in the world in February 2009, the Frenchwoman has had somewhat of a freefall down the rankings over the last few years, dipping as low as No.117 earlier this year - now back up at No.83, she is in her first WTA final since 2008.
Schiavone leads Cornet in their head-to-head series, 7-1, though that's 5-0 on hardcourts and only 2-1 on clay courts (Cornet won at Rome in 2008).
"I know the crowd will support Alizé in the final - she's French and she's a great player," Schiavone said. "But I will go out there and try my best, fight and enjoy the match, and I hope the public will support me for the final too!"