Some unlikely names have hogged much of the attention in the women's tournament in Paris – notably Virginie Razzano, Dominika Cibulkova and Yaroslava Shvedova, who knocked out Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Li Na respectively – but as the competition heads towards its finale the big guns are winning the major battles.
Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova won their quarter-finals yesterday to set up a semi-final showdown today between last year's Wimbledon finalists. The other semi-final sees Sam Stosur, the US Open champion, take on Italy's Sara Errani, the only one of the last four without a Grand Slam title.
While Sharapova needed just 74 minutes to beat Estonia's Kaia Kanepi 6-2, 6-3, Kvitova was given a tougher examination by Shvedova before winning 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. Shvedova, the world No 142 from Kazakhstan and better known as a doubles player, was attempting to become the first qualifier to reach the semi-finals in the French Open. She led 4-2 in the decider, but Kvitova showed the greater composure in the closing stages to secure victory.
Sharapova is through to her third semi-final here, though she has never gone further at the only Grand Slam tournament she has yet to win. Having laboured for more than three hours against Klara Zakopalova in the previous round, she had fewer problems against Kanepi, although she still dropped her serve three times. Kanepi, however, held serve only twice.
Kvitova and Sharapova will be meeting for the third time in the last four Grand Slam tournaments and are building a rivalry that could be a feature of the game for years to come. Both are big hitters who make up for a comparative lack of mobility around the court with their bold ground strokes and both have the temperament for the big occasion. Kvitova won their Wimbledon final in straight sets, but Sharapova has won both their meetings this year, in the Australian Open semi-finals and on clay in Stuttgart.
Kvitova had a barren run in the wake of her Wimbledon triumph but has yet to reach a final this year. Sharapova, in contrast, has enjoyed her most consistent run since her return from shoulder surgery, winning clay-court titles in Stuttgart and Rome. The Russian will return to the top of the world rankings for the first time in four years if she reaches the final here.