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Australian Stosur reaches semifinal

Associated Press

PARIS — Samantha Stosur of Australia reached her first major semifinal today by defeating Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-1, 6-3.

Stosur broke her opponent twice in the first set and three times in the second, including in the final game when Cirstea sent a shot long on match point.

The 25-year-old Stosur has never won a tour title. She will face either Serena Williams or Svetlana Kuznetsova in the next round.

On the men’s side, Robin Soderling’s improbable run at Roland Garros has reached the semifinals, and he’ll face Fernando Gonzalez on Friday. In 22 Grand Slam tournaments, it’s the first time Soderling has advanced beyond the third round.

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"I don’t want to be too happy, because I have another match coming up," he said.

As an encore to his upset of Rafael Nadal, the No. 23-seeded Soderling beat No. 10 Nikolay Davydenko 6-1, 6-3, 6-1. Davydenko twice reached the French Open semifinals and was singled out by Roger Federer as this week’s potential champion, but Soderling keeps defying expectations in Paris.

"I always knew that I could play really, really good tennis," said the 24-year-old Soderling.

He has beaten three consecutive players whose best surface is clay — Davydenko, Nadal and Spaniard David Ferrer. He’ll face another experienced clay-courter in the No. 12-seeded Gonzalez, who became the first Chilean since 1960 to reach the Roland Garros semifinals when he beat No. 3 Andy Murray 6-3, 3-6, 6-0, 6-4.

Gonzalez conceded the matchup against Soderling is a surprise.

"Had someone told me I would reach the semifinal of a Grand Slam and I would have to play him, I don’t know if I would have believed it," Gonzalez said. "When you say French Open, you think Nadal immediately. But Robin is a great player. I mean, he hit the ball harder than most of the guys. If he’s in a good day he doesn’t let you play, so it’s going to be a really tough match for me."

Gonzalez is 4-3 against Soderling, including 2-0 on clay. Soderling has never won a clay-court title, but he’s riding a career-best eight-match winning streak, all on dirt, giving his confidence a boost.

"If you’d ask me like four years ago, I’d say I will never reach a semis in Paris," Soderling said. "But for every year, I think I started to play better and better on clay. Maybe so far I had my best results indoors, but then I think clay is my next-best surface, actually."

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Part of the charm at Roland Garros is its tradition for unpredictable outcomes. Before Nadal became the king of clay, the tournament produced plenty of surprise winners.

Five men in the Open era won their first clay-court title in Paris, most recently Gustavo Kuerten in 1997. And whoever wins this year’s men’s title will be a first-time French Open champion.

The quarterfinals scheduled for Wednesday matched Federer against Frenchman Gael Monfils, and Juan Martin del Potro against Tommy Robredo.

In the women’s semifinals Thursday, top-ranked Dinara Safina will face No. 20-seeded Dominika Cibulkova. Safina hopes to reach the final for the third time in the past five major events, while Cibulkova is playing in her first Grand Slam semifinal.

On Tuesday, Cibulkova swept the first 11 games and beat a weary, rusty Maria Sharapova 6-0, 6-2. Safina faced her first tough test in the tournament and rallied past Victoria Azarenka 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.

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