Sara Errani arrived at the French Open having won just one match in her five previous appearances here and having never beaten a top-10 player in 28 attempts. Tomorrow she will play in her first Grand Slam final thanks to a 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 victory over the world No 6, Sam Stosur, who yesterday became the 24-year-old Italian's third successive top-10 victim.
Errani's opponent will be Maria Sharapova, who reached her first final at Roland Garros by beating Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-3 – a victory that will take the 25-year-old Russian back to the top of the world rankings for the first time for four years.
It has been an extraordinary year for Errani, who began it as the world No 45 but will be world No 10 next week. Having won just two singles titles on the main tour in her first nine years as a professional, she has already won three this year, all on clay.
She has also won five doubles titles in partnership with Roberta Vinci and will attempt to add a sixth in this afternoon's final against Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova. She is the first woman to reach both the singles and doubles finals here since Kim Clijsters nine years ago.
Errani, who has prospered ever since changing to a longer racket, is aiming to better the achievement of her fellow countrywoman, Francesca Schiavone, who won here two years ago as the world No 17 and was only the second woman seeded outside the top 10 ever to lift the title. Errani is the lowest ranked player to reach the final since the world rankings were launched 37 years ago.
"Maybe my problem always was that I couldn't believe too much that I could beat the strong players," Errani said. "But now I've beaten three in a row and I'm in the final of a Grand Slam, maybe I have to try to think a bit differently."
Stosur, runner-up two years ago and playing in her third semi-final here in four years, was the favourite, but made 48 unforced errors as Errani beat the Australian for the first time in six attempts.
Sharapova, who would complete her full set of Grand Slam titles with victory here, lost to Kvitova in last year's Wimbledon final in straight sets but has now beaten the Czech in all three of their meetings in 2012. The Russian survived a minor wobble in the second set, when Kvitova recovered from 3-1 down to 3-3, but secured victory in style with a second serve ace.