Former US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova produced a gritty comeback to reach the final of the French Open on Thursday at the expense of teenager Nicole Vaidisova.
The eighth-seeded Russian won 5-7, 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 to set up a final against the winner of the all-Belgian semifinal between former world number ones Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne.
Vaidisova had served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, but just as the 17-year-old sensation looked set to cap a fine tournament by making her first Grand Slam final, she choked.
Kuznetsova needed no second invitation and turned the screw on a faltering opponent to claim the second set on a tie-break and then romp away with the decider.
The Czech had started the match with a string of wild forehands as she took a fearless approach to the task ahead, hitting deep groundstrokes that often peppered, but all too frequently cleared, the baseline.
That inconsistency cost her the first break of the match, but from 5-3 down in the first she stepped up a gear and reeled off six games in a row to seemingly set up victory.
She had been comfortably serving out the match until 5-4, when suddenly the nerves returned and her forehand went to pot.
Vaidisova kept thrashing fierce groundstrokes over the net but her trajectory seemed broken and the error count mounted.
She finished with 47 unforced errors to just 19 from the Russian, although Vaidisova’s positive approach had also garnered 54 winners compared with 26 for Kuznetsova.
Still, the steadier approach of the Russian prevailed and she hardly put a foot wrong in the one-sided third set.
Vaidisova had a brief sniff of a chance at 1-4 when she took a 0-30 lead on the Kuznetsova serve but her haphazard forehand scotched any hopes she had of turning things around. — AFP