Steady Francesca Schiavone became the first Italian woman to reach the final of the French Open Thursday as fifth-seeded opponent Elena Dementieva quit suddenly after losing the first set of their semi-final 7-6 (7-3).
The 29-year-old Schiavone, in uncharted personal territory at a major, will play her historic final Saturday against the winner from Australian seventh seed Samantha Stosur and number four Serb Jelena Jankovic.
Russian Dementieva, a fragile personality who lost the 2004 Roland Garros final, surprising packed up her racket in tears after losing the 70-minute opening set in a tiebreaker, leaving both her opponent and a showcase court crowd stunned and puzzled.
Schiavone, from Milan, was the first Italian woman to play a semi-final at a Grand Slam since 1954 Roland Garros (Silvia Lazzarano, who lost to Maureen Connolly).
She now become the first Italian woman into a Grand Slam final; and the first Italian player to get this far in Paris since Adriano Panatta won the 1976 Roland Garros men's title.
Schiavone, still in shock at the turn of events, kissed the clay and celebrated her achievement.
"I cannot imagine what she might have been feeling," said the winner. "She must have had a reason to quit.
"This is just a fantastic moment, I have a big emotion," said the Italian. "This is something very important.
"She has been Top 10 for 10 years, she was the favourite on paper. I will make history Saturday, but now is the time to enjoy it".
Dementieva had won her last three meetings with Schiavone to lead their head-to-head series 6-4.