PARIS, June 3 (Reuters) - Russian seventh seed Svetlana Kuznetsova held off a bold challenge from Serena Williams to beat the American world number two 7-6, 5-7, 7-5 and reach the French Open semi-finals on Wednesday. Serena, who was on a 18-match winning streak at the majors following her success at the U.S. and Australian Opens, threatened to fight back but she bowed out after two hours 47 minutes. “It was the same scenario as Australian Open,” said Kuznetsova, who lost 5-7 7-5 6-1 in the quarter-finals to Serena in Melbourne.
“In the second set, third set I was pushing myself to fight, and still she was break up. With her it’s a big difference. She started to serve great, and I’m very proud that I pushed myself and I could fight in the third set. “This gave me victory, because I fought until the end.” Kuznetsova, the only player to beat world number one Dinara Safina on clay this season, broke Serena twice at the start to leap into a 3-0 lead.
The American turned on the power to snatch a break back and levelled for 5-5 with a backhand that wrong-footed Kuznetsova. Put under huge pressure by Serena’s devastating forehand, the Russian lost her composure and faced a set point in the 12th game. She saved it with a crosscourt smash and forced a tiebreak with a forehand down the line. Kuznetsova got a double mini-break for 4-1 courtesy of a jaw-dropping service return winner and a backhand down the line and she sealed the tiebreak 7-3 with a forehand winner.
The Russian kept her momentum, moving 3-0 up in the second set after Serena netted a forehand in the second game to hand her opponent a break. At 4-2 and 40-30 Kuznetsova twisted her right ankle as she fell and after wiping off the red dirt, the Russian allowed Serena back into the match by conceding a break. Serena broke again to lead 6-5 when Kuznetsova netted a backhand and levelled the contest with an ace.
The 2004 U.S. Open champion was off the pace at the start of the third set, letting Williams take a 3-1 lead but she broke back in the sixth game. “Honestly I think I lost because of me and not because of anything she did,” Serena told reporters. “In the third I had an opportunity and I got really tight, and I pretty much gave it to her. It was like, Here, do you want to go to the semis? Because I don’t. She was like, Okay.” Kuznetsova wasted two match points in the 10th game with two long forehands but she converted her third chance on her opponent’s serve when Serena sent a backhand wide.