PARIS — On a rainy, windy day 53½ weeks ago at Roland Garros' cozy, 259-seat Court 8, Samantha Stosur and Francesca Schiavone played each other in a run-of-the-mill first-round match at the French Open.
Stosur, then ranked 32nd, beat Schiavone, then ranked 50th, in straight sets. They'll meet again at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament Saturday, but the setting and circumstances have changed.
This time Stosur and Schiavone will play for the French Open championship in the 14,845-capacity main stadium in a live TV broadcast to be seen around the world. It will be the first Grand Slam final for each, only the fifth such double debut in the 42-year Open era.
"No matter what I'm feeling, (Schiavone is) probably thinking it, too, so it's a different, new situation for both of us," said Stosur, 26, who has a home in Tampa and trains in the bay area. "Who knows how we're both going to feel? I'm sure there's going to be some nerves out there. I mean, she hasn't gone through it before, either, so that's probably a little bit comforting."
Stosur, seeded seventh, is the first Australian woman to play for a major title since Wendy Turnbull was the runnerup at the 1980 Australian Open. Schiavone, seeded 17th, is the first Italian woman to reach a Grand Slam final in the sport's century-plus history.
"It's beautiful," Schiavone, who turns 30 on June 23, said in Italian. "Very beautiful. Moving."
Neither finalist spent much time on the court in Thursday's anticlimactic semifinals.
Schiavone (pronounced skee-ah-VOH-nay) was sitting on her green changeover bench, toweling off after winning the first set of her match 7-6 (7-3) in 69 minutes, when her opponent, No. 5 Elena Dementieva, walked up while fighting tears to say she was quitting.
Dementieva said she tore her left calf muscle during her second-round match.
"It's very painful to even walk," said Dementieva, who wasn't sure whether she would be at Wimbledon, which begins June 21. "Just couldn't continue to play."
In the second semifinal, Stosur produced her third consecutive victory over a player who has been ranked No. 1, overpowering bewildered Jelena Jankovic 6-1, 6-2 to add to upsets of 12-time major title winner Serena Williams in the quarterfinals and four-time French Open champion Justine Henin in the fourth round.
"Beating the caliber of players I've played the last three rounds definitely helps me for Saturday's match," said Stosur, a tour-leading 20-2 on clay this season and a 2009 semifinalist at Roland Garros. "I've beaten all those, so why can't I win one more?"
Using the formula that worked against Williams and Henin, Stosur served brilliantly and pounded forehand winners from all angles. She hit seven aces, reaching 120 mph, and seven forehand winners in a match that lasted an hour.
Jankovic, seeded fourth, alternated between self-admonishment and praise for Stosur.
"I wasn't like myself," said Jankovic, the 2008 U.S. Open runnerup. "I don't even know who that was on the court."
Jankovic mentioned Stosur's kick serve — a high-bouncing offering rare in the women's game; the Australian learned it when she was about 13 — and her penchant for hitting "run-around" forehands, where she slides over to take whacks at balls headed for her backhand side.
"To be honest," Jankovic said, "she kind of has, like, almost the game of a man. That's what it feels like."
player apologizes for 'sluts' comment: Former Wimbledon junior champion Laura Robson apologized for saying some players are "sluts" who make a bad name for themselves by going out with different men. The 16-year-old Brit, considered her country's most promising female player, told Vogue magazine they needed to be "more discreet." Robson said Thursday she made a "totally inappropriate, throwaway comment without considering the consequences." The WTA said it was glad that Robson showed "the maturity and good judgment" to apologize.