PARIS (Reuters) - Australian veteran Sam Stosur battled into her fourth French Open semi-final on Wednesday, beating 102nd-ranked Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova in straight sets after a dramatic tiebreak turnaround.
Pironkova, keeping Stosur on the move early on with powerful backhand groundstrokes to both wings while the number 21 seed's signature forehand often misfired, came close to taking a grip on the match when she held three break points for a 5-2 lead in the first set.
But Stosur won the next five points to launch an impressive comeback and win the set 6-4.
Referring to the key seventh game, the 32-year-old Australian told a news conference: "That was really big to get out of that.. I was able to get on a bit of a roll from that point on."
Stosur, who lost the 2010 Paris final to Italy's Francesca Schiavone, also showed her greater experience in the second set.
Pironkova again began well, breaking Stosur in the second game before taking a 3-1 lead and then tying the set at 5-5 with an ace.
The Bulgarian looked to have done enough to take the match into a third set decider when she led 5-1 in the tiebreak, but Stosur chased down that deficit with a succession of deep but steady groundstrokes and saved two set points before winning the breaker 8-6.
In all, Stosur converted four of six break points while her opponent made just three out of 13.
"I was nervous. I did some silly mistakes here and there. She did some good rallies," a rueful Pironkova said when reflecting on the final few points of the match, acknowledging that Stosur had a realistic chance of going one better than in 2010.
"Sure. Why not? I don't think age is a factor that much anymore. She looks fit, she's playing well, she's hitting well."
Before getting a shot at adding a second major title to her 2011 U.S. Open win, Stosur faces a semi-final against Spanish fourth seed Garbine Muguruza, who ended the run of another player outside the top 100, 108th-ranked American Shelby Rogers.
"It's going to be a tough one against Garbine," Stosur said.
"I will have to play well, and if I'm not playing my best I will have to find a way and do something that's going to hopefully put me in a position to do well."
(Reporting by John Stonestreet, editing by Pritha Sarkar)