Australia's Samantha Stosur has crashed out of the French Open, suffering a shock three-set semi-final defeat to Italy's Sara Errani at Roland Garros.
Errani, the 21st seed, had never beaten sixth seed Stosur in five previous meetings, but she held her nerve in a tight, rain-delayed match on Court Phillippe Chatrier to win 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 in just over two hours.
The women's title decider will see Errani face Russian Maria Sharapova, who regained the world number one ranking for the first time in four years by making her first French Open final.
The second seed knocked out Czech fourth seed Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-3 as she aims to complete a career Grand Slam, having won titles at Wimbledon in 2004, the US Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008.
Stosur - who was trying to earn a place in her third career grand slam final - had far more winners than Errani, but her 48 unforced errors to her opponent's 21 proved the difference.
Stosur said it "hurts a lot" to be upset by another Italian underdog at the French Open, having fallen to pint-sized Francesca Schiavone in the finale two years ago.
Stosur, 28, had beaten Errani five times in a row before their French encounter, and was hoping to be the first Australian woman to win at Roland Garros in 39 years.
"I'd have to say I was much more disappointed losing the final," Stosur said, before adding: "Obviously today hurts a lot as well."
"There are things that you can take away from both matches that are maybe similar," she said, regretting that she could have done more against Errani, who will move into the top 10 as a result of her victory.
"I don't know if I'm going to watch the final, to be honest.
"I couldn't really care less what happens at this point."
The Queenslander said she is looking forward to Wimbledon, which starts in two weeks' time.
"That's always been a very tough tournament for me, but I guess in some ways that's the beauty of tennis," she said.
"You can have, you know, a really crap day and then there's another tournament the next week and you get a chance to kinda redeem yourself very quickly."
Sharapova meanwhile is now celebrating a return to the pinnacle of the sport, having seen her career ranking slump to 126 after battling a shoulder injury which required surgery.
She finished runner-up to Kvitova at Wimbledon last year and was also runner-up in this year's Australian Open.
But claycourt titles in Stuttgart and Rome in the run-up to Paris hinted that she was approaching something like her best again.
"I was in a position a few years ago where I didn't quite know if I would ever be here again on this stage playing professionally," Sharapova said.
"It's a long road back. It's a lot of days of frustration and uncertainty not knowing if you'll ever get there, not knowing how much you want it, not knowing whether it would be a moment like that for you again.
"So there's definitely a lot of tough things you have to go through to get to this point, but it's all really worth it.
"I have played tennis since I was four years old. I committed myself to this sport. I've always loved what I did.
"When it was taken away from me for a while, that's when I realised how grateful I was and how lucky I was to be playing it."
Stosur started strongly, holding serve with three aces in the first game, and then she broke Errani straight away in the second.
But the Italian rallied, matching Stosur's aggression, standing up to her serve and concentrating on the forehand corner of the court to good effect.
She broke Stosur in the third game to go back 1-2, and held her serve to love to level the match.
Both players then held serve until the 11th game, where Errani converted her third break point of the game to get the advantage.
Five points later, the Italian served wide to the forehand court, drew a Stosur cross-court return and put a forehand winner away down the line to win the set 7-5 in 46 minutes.
The first game of the second set was a battle, with Errani netting a return on break point, and Stosur taken to three deuces before finally holding serve.
It galvanised Stosur into action, and the following game she broke Errani for the first time to lead 2-0.
A quick hold for 3-0, and suddenly it was Errani struggling to make inroads.
The following game she had Stosur cold with a lob from the baseline, but missed by inches to bring up another break point for 4-0, and Stosur crushed a forehand cross-court winner to get the insurance of a second break.
Stosur took Errani to four deuces in the sixth game before netting a drop shot into an open court to make it 5-1.
Stosur delivered her ninth and 10th aces for the match to bring up three set points, then wasted the first two before serving another ace down the T to level the match 6-1 in 36 minutes.
The Australian started the third set hitting for the lines, but errors handed Errani an easy opening service game.
The mistakes continued to come from Stosur, as she went down three break points in the second game and saved one before ballooning another ball off the frame of her racket to make it 2-0 to Errani.
The Italian then held for 3-0, putting extra pressure on Stosur to hold and stay in the set and match.
Stosur came back from 0-30 in the next game to hold, and then in the fifth game she made the breakthrough, rifling a backhand winner down the line after Errano saved the first three break points.
The breeze was picking up, making lobs swirl in the air and volleys go long. Stosur held her nerve to hold for 3-3, but Errani had an easy love service game.
The eighth game was pivotal, with Stosur having more errors. She saved two break point,s then a double fault and a wide return gave the break away.
Serving for the match, Errani was placed under little pressure by Stosur, who made errors on the first three points before the Italian put away a forehand winner to win through to her first grand slam final.
ABC/wiresTags: sport, tennis, france First posted June 08, 2012 01:46:15