Italy’s Sara Errani reached her first grand slam final with a stunning 7-5 1-6 6-3 victory over Sam Stosur at the French Open this afternoon.
The 21st seed was a huge underdog against the 2010 finalist, who had not dropped a set all tournament, but she played at a high level throughout and was nerveless at the conclusion.
Errani had only ever won one match at Roland Garros before this year but her greater consistency was the deciding factor, with Stosur’s 48 unforced errors simply too high.
The Australian – who lost to another Italian, Francesca Schiavone, in the 2010 final – made the perfect start with an immediate break of the Errani serve, but the Italian has shown this fortnight what a feisty competitor she is and she hit straight back.
Errani stands less then 5ft 5in tall and had been expected to struggle with the kick serve and heavy topspin of Stosur, but she was taking the ball early and more than holding her own.
Both players held serve reasonably comfortably until the 11th game, when Errani put her opponent under huge pressure.
Twice Stosur used her big forehand to great effect to get out of trouble but a third break point followed and this time the Australian netted a backhand volley.
Errani was not about to let the chance to clinch the set slip by and a lovely wide serve and forehand combination put her in the driving seat.
But the 25-year-old had never won in five previous meetings with Stosur, and the sixth seed came out firing at the start of the second set.
Errani could have won the opening game, but Stosur powered away a backhand winner on break point, and from there she reeled off another four games in a row.
But, despite the one-sided nature of the second set, it still felt like the match was on a knife edge, with the start of the decider all important.
And it was Errani who seized the initiative, exploiting a series of errors from Stosur to break and move 3-0 ahead.
The wind had got up, making conditions very tricky, but Stosur dug in and retrieved the break. The 28-year-old’s greater weight of shot always had the potential to be the difference, but she had to keep her error count low.
And Errani simply was not going away. She forced two more break points at 4-3, both saved brilliantly by Stosur, but the Australian then double-faulted and Errani pounced.
Serving for a place in the final, she displayed the same fearlessness she had shown throughout, bringing up three match points and powering away a forehand on the first.
Errani is having the best season of her career and her victory ensured a third Italian finalist in three years here following Schiavone’s two appearances in 2010 and 2011.