Baffling win for Francesca Schiavone

PARIS -- Milling around the players lounge minutes after Kim Clijsters blew a 6-3, 5-2 lead to Dutch outsider Arantxa Rus at the French Open, a coach quipped, "That's the beauty of women's tennis."

More of the same craziness loomed in two women's quarterfinals Tuesday, when biting winds and low temperatures made jackets and sweaters the norm at courtside.

Defending champion Francesca Schiavone and France's Marion Bartoli were the lucky ones who advanced to the final four, edging a pair of Russians, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Svetlana Kuznetsova, respectively.

Here are five things we learned from Tuesday's action in Paris.

Two players can choke -- in the same match

No lead is safe. Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Garcia will tell you that.

The media room smelled a meltdown when Pavlyuchenkova relinquished a 6-1, 4-1 advantage, dropping the second set.

Schiavone had all the momentum in the third and duly raced to a 5-1 lead, to no one's surprise. She was using all her experience and capitalizing on the 19-year-old's lack of it. Pavlyuchenkova looked lost.

But guess what happened next?

Schiavone lost four games in a row.

First, Pavlyuchenkova's explanation for her collapse: "For sure, I lost my concentration a little bit at 4-1," she said. "I wasn't aggressive enough, and I just didn't serve well."

Your turn, Francesca: "She grew up a little bit with the level," Schiavone said. "I went down a little bit."

A simple explanation to a complex encounter.

Pav needs to get fitter

Pavlyuchenkova, the youngest player in the top 40, has the main ingredient for success on the women's tour -- she can thump the ball from the baseline. And her use of angles off both wings is impressive, especially for someone so young. At times, Pavlyuchenkova was blowing one of the hottest players on the tour, Victoria Azarenka, off the court at the Italian Open.

Like against Schiavone, though, she couldn't keep it up. Perhaps fitness is playing a role.

Pavlyuchenkova labored as she transitioned to the net in the third set or moved forward in general. She reacted slowly on volleys off Schiavone passing shots.

The FFT and Bartoli don't get along

The last French woman to win the tournament was Mary Pierce, who's here this week, in 2000. That's a while ago. The last French-born winner was Francoise Durr much further back, in 1967.

So when Bartoli faced Kuznetsova, a former champion, you'd have thought she'd play on Center Court.

Instead, Bartoli was stuck on the second show court, Suzanne Lenglen.


Bartoli has long had a frosty relationship with the French Tennis Federation and some of her countrywomen. She hasn't played Fed Cup in seven years; she's wanted coach and dad, Walter, to be part of the setup, while the FFT has said no.

Or at least that's the most plausible reason.

Schiavone-Bartoli will be enticing

Schiavone and Bartoli have met five times, none on clay, with the Italian winning four times.

No matter the outcome in the semifinals Thursday, the match will be intriguing to watch: Schiavone gesticulates with the best of them, using her hands as the exclamation point, while Bartoli's movement between points has entertained the scribes.

"I am transparent," Schiavone said. "I live and love tennis when I can express myself."

Before playing match point, Bartoli played a point in itself by practicing her forehand, backhand and hopping up as though she was returning serve.

"It's weird," Kuznetsova said.

Tiring stuff.

Sveta isn't quite back

Kuznetsova was optimistic heading into the quarterfinals. She was performing well, avoiding those mental dips, and thriving in a new coaching relationship with 2004 French Open champion Anastasia Myskina, her fellow Russian.

Kuznetsova, though, struggled in the windy conditions, committing 33 unforced errors, 12 more than Bartoli. She frequently erred on the important points.

She didn't mince words in her news conference, using "horrible," "bad" and "disaster."

"For me, it was worse than the worst dream," she said. "I just played so bad."

Tell us what you really think, Sveta.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter.