Francesca Schiavone credited the inspirational power of the French Open after moving to within one victory of a second successive Roland Garros title.
The Italian gave a supreme display of clay-court tennis to beat Marion Bartoli 6-3 6-3 in the semi-finals yesterday afternoon and will face Li Na tomorrow after the Chinese player saw off Maria Sharapova 6-4 7-5.
Schiavone's victory over Samantha Stosur 12 months ago made her one of the more surprise grand slam winners, and this year's run has also been somewhat unexpected because she has not reached another final in between.
The 30-year-old, who has now won 13 straight matches at Roland Garros, said: "When I was young, I always dreamed about this tournament, so it is coming from a long, long time ago. When I come here, I feel something special."
Schiavone had lost 10 of the first 12 games in her last-eight clash against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova but she was switched on from the start.
Bartoli had the support of the crowd but her opponent gradually wound things up and broke through in the eighth game before clinching the set in superb style.
Schiavone's spins and slices coupled with her clever placement caused Bartoli problems and, although the Frenchwoman took an early lead in the second set, she was always under pressure and eventually that took its toll. Bartoli, for whom this was a best run at a grand slam since her surprise appearance in the Wimbledon final in 2007, felt the windy conditions played into Schiavone's hands.
She said: "I think I handled the pressure well but Francesca played extremely well with the conditions. It was extremely windy, and she used those conditions very well."
Earlier, Li claimed her biggest scalp yet to reach a second consecutive grand slam final, but she had some help from Sharapova, who served 10 double-faults, including one on match point.
The Chinese player, who lost to Kim Clijsters at the Australian Open, took a 3-0 lead and, although Sharapova pegged her back, she always looked vulnerable on her own delivery in windy conditions.