Maria Sharapova and Sara Errani are set to contest the French Open final today in what will be a first ever meeting between the two 25-year-olds.
Second-seeded Russian Sharapova won through with a 6-3, 6-3 win over fourth seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, while 21st seed Errani of Italy ousted Australian sixth seed Samantha Stosur 7-5, 1-6, 6-3.
The stakes could hardly be higher for Sharapova, who is already assured of regaining the world No. 1 spot she last held in 2008, before a shoulder injury nearly wrecked her career.
The 2004 Wimbledon, 2006 US Open and 2008 Australian Open champion will become just the 10th woman to complete a career Grand Slam if she takes today’s final, her first at Roland Garros.
Errani, who was not rated among the favorites for the title coming into Paris, despite winning three clay-court build-up tournaments, will be playing in her first Grand Slam final.
A win would make her just the second Italian woman to win the French Open title, after Francesca Schiavone two years ago.
Sharapova will start as a strong favorite and if she can reproduce the kind of form she showed against Wimbledon champion Kvitova, Errani could struggle to counter her power.
Sharapova, at an imposing 1.88m tall, and Kvitova, just 5cm shorter, both struggled for accuracy in the testing conditions on Philippe Chatrier court, where the wind whipped up the clay and helped balls sail out.
However, it was Sharapova who quickly adapted her game, not hitting for the lines as is her strength and the tactic paid off.
The Russian hit twice as many winners as Kvitova and kept the errors down to just nine, despite the gusting wind.
It was sweet revenge for Sharapova, who had been beaten in straight sets by the Czech in the Wimbledon final last year.
“It’s an amazing feeling to be in my first final. I have been in two semi-finals, but it was always my dream of getting to the final stage,” Sharapova said.
“That’s pretty special. After my shoulder surgery, my ranking was out of the 100 in the world, but I thought if I could be No. 1 in the world before, that then I could do it again,” she added.
Errani halted Stosur’s bid to become the first Australian woman to win the French Open title since Margaret Court in 1973.
Two years ago she was the first Australian to reach the final in Paris since Wendy Turnbull in 1979, but on that occasion she lost in straight sets to Schiavone.
It was a similar task that faced her on Thursday, pitting her weight of shot and physical presence against Italian guile and court-craft in the shape of the pint-sized Errani.
In what turned out to be a match of sudden momentum swings, Errani proved to be the more solid in the final set as the Australian struggled to keep her touch and timing.
The win over the reigning US Open champion Stosur followed earlier victories over two former French Open champions — Ana Ivanovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova — and Errani admitted she had not expected to get so far.
“It’s incredible for me. I didn’t expect it, and I’m here,” she said.
“All the matches I played, I’m very happy for how I played, because I think I made good games. But it’s not finished, so I have one match more. I have to think about that. That’s it,” Errani said.