Tennis

Serena rallies to reach French semis

CLOSE CALL
Serena Williams had lost in her past four trips to the French Open quarterfinals.
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PARIS (AP)

While Roger Federer quickly faced a big deficit Tuesday and never recovered, American Serena Williams was able to get out of a much smaller spot of trouble at the French Open.

Trailing in the third set against 2009 French Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova, the No. 1-seeded Williams won five games in a row en route to a 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 victory that put her back in the semifinals at Paris after a decade's absence.

Williams had lost four consecutive quarterfinals at Roland Garros — in 2004, 2007, 2009 (to Kuznetsova) and 2010 — and so when she was serving while down 2-0 in the final set Tuesday, ''I thought, you know, 'Can't go out like this again.' ''

That was a pivotal game, featuring 16 points and three break chances for Kuznetsova, who flubbed the last with a drop shot that floated wide. After finally holding in that game with an inside-out forehand winner as Kuznetsova stumbled to the clay, Williams broke right away with a backhand winner that had her yelling and shaking her fist.

''Unbelievable competitor,'' Kuznetsova said. ''She turns on (her) game when she needs it.''

Kuznetsova winced a few times after slow serves, and said afterward she strained an abdominal muscle earlier in the tournament.

''I did push her to the limit, I think, today, even without my serve,'' Kuznetsova said. ''I was serving like, I don't know, a grandmother.''

It was the first challenge of the tournament for Williams, who lost 10 games against Kuznetsova after dropping that same number across her first four rounds combined.

''When you don't have tough matches, once you have one, then you are a bit shocked, you know? You don't react well immediately all the time,'' said Williams' coach, Patrick Moratouglou. ''But I'm very proud of her, because she was really, really in a bad situation.''

Since a first-round exit at Roland Garros a year ago, Williams is 72-3, and she's currently on a career-long 29-match winning streak. In Thursday's semifinals, she'll face No. 5 Sara Errani, last year's runner-up to Maria Sharapova. Errani reached the semifinals for the third time in the last five major tournaments by beating No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 7-6 (6).

Williams is 5-0 against Errani.

''She forces you to play at a very high level to have any chance of winning. I'll have to hit shots hard and deep and make her move,'' said Errani, who was 0-28 against women ranked in the top five before Tuesday. ''As soon as you hit a short ball, Serena gets right on top of you, and she has enough power to end the point.''

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