New milestone for ecstatic Schiavone

PARIS -- Francesca Schiavone will turn 30 later this month, but on Tuesday she achieved a career first here at Roland Garros.

With the applauding Court Philippe Chatrier patrons on their feet, she eased down across the service box and laid a loving, lingering kiss on the dark red clay. Her nice white dress was sullied and her face looked like a 2-year-old's that has been into the pudding, but she was ecstatic after defeating No. 3-seeded Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 6-3.

A little later, Elena Dementieva ushered Nadia Petrova from the French Open in a convoluted 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 match that opened like a Russian novel.

Dementieva and Schiavone have now played in a combined 85 Grand Slam singles events -- and have yet to win one. On Saturday, in the women's final, one of them will have that rare opportunity.

It was the first major semifinal for Schiavone, who will break into the top 10 for the first time, and she's the first Italian woman to cross that threshold here in Paris.

What was she feeling when she kissed the clay?

"Heart attack," she said, smiling. "Maybe I can tell you in Italian; is more easy.

"I think in that moment you remember many things from when you are -- when you were young. Is special because is your space, is your time, is your opportunity. Because I am 29 years old. I do this job for life. Maybe I don't understand really what is now."

Dementieva, who has now advanced to eight Grand Slam semifinals -- she reached the final here in 2004, losing to Anastasia Myskina -- was somewhat more subdued.

"We were not physically at our best today, but we are fighters," Dementieva said of Petrova, a fellow Russian. "It's not easy to play against someone you know really well. But you know better the player and you know exactly what you want to do on the court.

"It's one of the most difficult Grand Slams to play because of the circumstances and the weather. It's been really cold and windy."

Petrova has had a history of unstable performances, but she was solid in the wacky first set. With Dementieva preparing to serve at 2-3, the rain intensified and the two players were called to the side. Dementieva left the court to have her right thigh taped, and later, Petrova followed her and emerged with a taped left thigh. The delay was more than 15 minutes, and it required the players to commence a second warm-up.

By the second set, Petrova was laboring and tears appeared. She had a sore left adductor muscle, which was tweaked in a third-round match, and her ankle was throbbing. She considered retiring in the third set, but played on.

"It's just so difficult to quit and walk away because you just want to give it all," Petrova said later. "Anything can happen. On clay somebody can sprain the ankle and not [be] able to continue. It's very unpredictable."

For the record, Wozniacki admitted that her chronically sprained right ankle is still bothering her after repeated slides on the clay. Wozniacki, who has been criticized for playing too much with injuries, is also suffering from a sore left adductor muscle.

Looming over the women's draw, however, is Serena Williams. She's the only major champion left in the field -- she's won 12, thank you. Serena meets slammin' Sam Stosur in a Wednesday quarterfinal, and the winner will get either Jelena Jankovic or Yaroslava Shvedova.

"I seem to always be able to turn it up during this particular stage, for some reason," Serena said after her fourth-round match. "Hopefully, I turn it up again."

Dementieva admitted she thinks about coming so close in Grand Slams but always falling short.

"For sure, it's on my mind," she said. "It's one of the last goals of my career. We'll see if I can handle the challenge in the semifinals."

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.