Paris:Robin Soderling extended his improbable run to the French Open final by beating Fernando Gonzalez 6-3, 7-5, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 on Friday in a seesaw match.
Soderling let a big lead slip away when he lost his serve in the final game of the third and fourth sets. The 23rd-seeded Swede fell behind 3-love and 4-1 in the final set, but down the stretch came up with the kind of shotmaking that helped him upset four-time defending champion Rafael Nadal in the fourth round, and he swept the last five games.
On Sunday, Soderling will play the winner of the second semifinal between No. 2 Roger Federer and No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro.
"I have very far to go," said Soderling, the Swede to reach the French Open final since Magnus Norman in 2000.
Federer is trying to complete a career Grand Slam and win his 14th major title, which would tie Pete Sampras' record. Federer has been beaten at the French Open each of the past four years by Nadal, the four-time defending champion who lost to Soderling in the fourth round Sunday.
Soderling never advanced beyond the third round in his previous 21 major tournaments, and he has never won a clay-court title. The victory over Gonzalez was only Soderling's fourth in a five-set match.
The 3 1/2-hour semifinal had lots of drama, and a little controversy. Gonzalez challenged a call late in the fourth set, contending a shot by Soderling had landed wide, and when the umpire denied his appeal, Gonzalez sat on the disputed mark in the clay to smooth it out.
Gonzalez won the game anyway but played the rest of the match with dirt caked on his shorts.
The quality of play was high throughout. Soderling had 74 winners, including 16 aces, and Gonzalez totaled 59 winners, including 22 aces.
The all-Russian women's final Saturday will renew a rivalry dating back a decade, and Svetlana Kuznetsova hopes to fare better than the first time she faced Dinara Safina.
They were juniors then _ Kuznetsova from St. Petersburg, Safina from Moscow, both with athletic bloodlines.
"I was like 12 or 13, and Dinara was an unbelievable girl," Kuznetsova said. "She's one year younger than me. I had no chance playing against her. I remember I lose to her 6-1, 6-love or something."
They've played each other many times since, and Safina leads 7-4 in tour-level matches. Saturday's showdown will be the biggest yet, with a Grand Slam title at stake.
It would be the first for Safina and the second for Kuznetsova, the 2004 U.S. Open champion.
"It's definitely going to be stress, definitely going to be emotion, definitely going to be business. Everything," the seventh-seeded Kuznetsova said.
They've been the best players on clay this year, meeting on the surface twice in finals last month. Kuznetsova beat Safina for the title at Stuttgart, Germany, then lost when they played in the final in Rome a week later.
Since climbing to the top of the rankings in April, Safina has reached the final in the four tournaments she has played, all on clay.
"She's going to be favorite to win," Kuznetsova said. "She's No. 1. She has played an unbelievable season."
In Safina's 21 matches as the top-ranked player, she has lost only once _ to Kuznetsova.