Andrea Petkovic kept her remarkable run at the French Open on track on Wednesday as she crushed Italian tenth seed Sara Errani to set up a last four clash against Simona Halep.
The German, who slumped to 177 in the world following a spate of injuries that almost forced her to give up the game and fell in qualifying at Roland Garros 12 months ago, sailed past 2012 finalist Errani 6-2, 6-2 in just over an hour.
Halep, the highest seed remaining in the draw at number four, also reached her first Grand Slam semi-final as she brushed aside 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia by the same 6-2, 6-2 scoreline.
Petkovic becomes the first German woman to reach the French Open semi-finals since 1999 when Steffi Graf went on to win the last of her Open era record of 22 Grand Slams.
Her delight after sealing the match was obvious as the ball sailed out.
“I saw the ball, and it was so slow. I just prayed to God that it went out, because I didn’t want to smash that ball,” she said.
“I thought about, Should I take it as a drive volley or should I smash it? I was just praying that it went out. I was like, please, please, please, please, please'”.
“I had a very good game plan from my coach but it didn’t work in the beginning, so I was getting a little, not panicked, but when you have a certain game plan and you lose the first two games and it’s not working, so I was kind of getting a little worried.
“But, I trust my coach a great deal, so I told myself, Stick with it for this set. If it doesn’t work out, you can still change something. So I was lucky that I started playing better and that I was putting more balls into play. And then the game plan started working out better.”
It is Petkovic’s first ever appearance in the last four of a major, although she did reach three quarter-finals at Australia, the French and the US Open during her finest season in 2011 when she peaked at world number nine.
Behind a first serve percentage of 91 per cent, the 26-year-old broke Errani’s serve seven times in total.
She fired 26 winners against Errani’s 11 while the Italian won just two of 12 points on her second serve and 39 per cent of her first serves.
– Frustrating rain delay –
Halep had never previously got beyond the second round in the French capital but overpowered the 27th seed Kuznetsova, who has not reached a Grand Slam semi-final since winning in Paris in 2009.
Kuznetsova was never able to sustain a serious challenge after having her left thigh heavily strapped at the end of the first set.
Halep, who was the 2008 junior champion at Roland Garros, is bidding to become just the second Romanian woman to triumph in Paris after her manager Virginia Ruzici took the 1978 title
“I was very relaxed. Was a tough day because I had to wait a few hours to play because of the rain, but still was a perfect day,” said Halep.
“I stayed with my team and we spoke about other things. Not about the match and about the tennis. So I’m really happy that I could pass this level, this quarter-final and really happy to enjoy the next match because is the best result.”
In a match delayed by three hours because of heavy rain, Halep broke for 2-0 in the first set and although Kuznetsova evened the contest at 2-2, that was as good as it got for the Russian.
Halep reeled off the next four games to take the first set and from 1-0 down in the second, she stretched out to a 5-2 lead.
She overcame a nervy final service game where she served up two double faults, before coming through when Kuznetsova netted a forehand return.
The other semi-final on Thursday will feature Maria Sharapova, the 2012 champion, against Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard.