They were not exactly storming the Bastille or sending for the guillotine, but most of the 15,000 spectators who left Court Philippe Chatrier here yesterday must have wondered whether they had been given value for money. The two women's semi-finals at the French Open lasted a total of two hours and two minutes and were the poorest of advertisements for the women's game.
Elena Dementieva at least had the excuse that she had trouble even walking, having suffered a leg injury earlier in the tournament. The 28-year-old Russian was clearly restricted in her movement but still took Italy's Francesca Schiavone to a first set tie-break. Dementieva lost it and then retired hurt.
Nevertheless, the first semi-finalists were still on court for two minutes longer than Jelena Jankovic and Samantha Stosur. Jankovic, the world No 4, could hardly keep the ball in play and was beaten 6-1, 6-2. Of the 59 points Stosur won, 41 came from her opponent's errors and in the first set Jankovic did not hit a single winner.
Tomorrow's final will feature two players who have won just five titles between them, although they have both made nearly $5m (£4.2m) in prize money. Stosur, 26, had never won a tournament until last year, when she beat Schiavone in the final in Osaka. Schiavone, 29, has just three minor titles to show for her 15 years and 731 matches as a professional. She is the first Italian woman in the Open era to reach a Grand Slam singles final, while Stosur will be the first Australian woman in a final since Evonne Goolagong won Wimbledon in 1980.
Stosur has won four of her five matches against Schiavone, whose only victory came in their first meeting five years ago. The Australian dropped just six games to the Italian in the first round here last year on her way to the semi-finals and will be the clear favourite given her last three results. Stosur beat Justine Henin in the fourth round, saved a match point before overcoming Serena Williams in the quarter-finals and was much too good for Jankovic.
Poor Jankovic, who has now lost five of her six Grand Slam semi-finals and was beaten by Williams in her only final in New York two years ago, said she had felt heavy on her feet throughout. Stosur served well, struck her forehand with great power and showed no signs of nerves. "I probably couldn't have asked to play a much better match," she said afterwards.
Dementieva, who has won only two of her Grand Slam semi-finals, suffered a calf-muscle tear in her left leg in the second round here and almost pulled out of her next match. The world No 5, who will pull out of Eastbourne and is a doubt for Wimbledon, said she was in so much pain yesterday that she doubted whether she would have continued even if she had won the first set.
The Russian's discomfort was evident as early as the second game, when she made no attempt to chase down a drop-shot return of serve. She broke to lead 4-3 but immediately dropped her own serve after two double faults and two woeful forehands. Dementieva even led 2-0 in the tie-break before Schiavone turned it around by winning six points in succession.
On reaching the final Schiavone sank to her knees and kissed the court. Asked later why she thought success had come so late in her career, she said that everybody was different. "I think it's my time now," she said. "Maybe before I wasn't ready. Maybe before I had the chance but I didn't take it. Now I just have to keep going to work like I've done for many years."