Francesca Schiavone’s love affair with Roland Garros continued on Sunday as she dug deep to defeat Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 to reach the quarter-finals.
It was the little Italian’s 11th straight win in Paris following her upset triumph here last year and she will next take on Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who at 19 is 11 years her junior.
The 2006 world junior girls champion and 14th seed saw off her more experienced compatriot and third seed Vera Zvonareva 7-6 (7/4), 2-6, 6-2.
Also through to the last eight was Marion Bartoli who became the first French woman to reach the quarter-finals here since Mary Pierce was runner-up in 2005 when Gisela Dulko retired when 7-5, 1-0 down with an injury to her left thigh.
She will next take on the winner of the tie opposing 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia and Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia.
With the top two seeds, Caroline Wozniacki and Kim Clijsters already out of the tournament, the highest-ranking players left are fourth seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and Schiavone.
It was the first time in the Open era (since 1968) that none of the top three seeds reached the quarter-finals at Roland Garros.
Schiavone used all her clay-court craftmanship to counter former world number one Jankovic, who had much more power in her shot-making and depth to her serve.
Using plenty spin and tactical positioning, Schiavone ran away with the first set, but the Serb dominated the second.
The key moment in the decider came, after an early exchange of service breaks, in the ninth game with the scores level at 4-4.
Schiavone went on the offensive at the net to earn a break point which she converted when an under-pressure Jankovic hit long with a backhand.
She then served out for the match to extend her unbeaten run at Roland Garros, bending down to kiss the red dirt surface as she had done a year ago when she finally won a Grand Slam title at the ripe old age of 29.
For Russian teen Pavlyuchenkova, the win over Zvonareva represents a major breakthrough as it will be a first appearance for her in a Grand Slam quarter-final.
“It’s my first Grand Slam quarter-final and it means a lot to me especially beating Vera. I knew it would be tough. She is very experienced and fights until the end,” said Pavlyunchenkova.
“My dream is to win Roland Garros at least once.”
Pavlyuchenkova, the youngest player left in the draw, got off to the perfect start with a break of serve and led 2-0 before her more seasoned compatriot ran off four games in a row.
Zvonareva served for the set at 5-3 but was broken as her opponent forced a tie-break.
The younger and taller of the two Russians took early control of that with some big-hitting groundstrokes from the baseline giving her a 3-0 lead and she held on to that advantage to pocket the first set in 57 minutes.
That was the cue for Zvonareva to enjoy her best spell of the match in which she won four games in a row to dominate the second set.
Another break of serve to Zvonareva in the third game of the decider could have deflated Pavlyuchenkova, but instead she rallied strongly to level and after winning a marathon fifth game, she raced away to pull off an impressive win.
“She played a great match and has been very consistent. She is young and has great potential for the future,” Zvonareva said of her opponent.