Saturday, 5 June 2010 16:19 UK
Francesca Schiavone became the first Italian woman to win a Grand Slam title with a superb victory over Australia’s Sam Stosur in the French Open final.
The 29-year-old from Milan ignored her underdog status as she won a high-quality encounter 6-4 7-6 (7-2) on a baking hot Court Philippe Chatrier.
Seventh seed Stosur had beaten Justine Henin, Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic on her way to the final and was the leading player on clay this year with a 20-2 record on the surface.
But Schiavone, the 17th seed, was making history as the first Italian woman to even reach a Grand Slam final, and she went one better to match male compatriot Adriano Panatta’s 1976 victory at Roland Garros.
“I felt amazing today,” said the world number 17, who became the second lowest ranked woman in the open era to win the French Open. “I feel a real champion and I’m very, very happy.”
The finalists may not have been among the game’s very biggest names but the quality of play, particularly from Schiavone, was worthy of any major final.
Stosur rattled through her opening two service games to love and Schiavone was similarly impressive in the opening stages, both players seeing off moments of danger from deuce with some big serving.
It was the Australian who cracked first in game nine, sending a forehand wide and then prodding a nervous volley over the baseline to slip to 0-40.
Schiavone thought she had made the breakthrough at 15-40 when a backhand pass clipped the net, only to see it loop up and land inches wide, but Stosur then handed over the break with a double-fault and the Italian came back from 0-30 to see out the set.
Her attacking game plan then brought Schiavone two chances to move clear in game three of the second set but Stosur battled her way out of trouble from 15-40, before putting the pressure back on her opponent with some heavy forehands.
Schiavone faced break points for the first time in the match in game four and when she pushed a forehand into the tramlines it seemed that a third set would be required.
But it was to be the only moment of weakness from the Italian who came roaring back from 4-1 down with three games in a row, a searing backhand return and a forehand pass helping her to break in game seven and drawing huge cheers from the Chatrier crowd.
A tie-break was needed and Schiavone totally dominated, showing no sign of nerves as the greatest prize of her career came into sight.
She brought Stosur into the net and guided a backhand past her for the break at 3-2 and then came up with a volley, a forehand winner and a sublime backhand drop volley to stand at 6-2 and four championship points.
When her single-handed backhand came flying off the frame of Stosur’s racquet, the Italian collapsed onto the dirt and kissed the red clay as she had done after her previous wins this week.
Schiavone then followed the well worn path of Grand Slam winners into the stands to find her friends and family, but few on-court celebrations can have been as emotional as that between the Italian and her many supporters.
“They’re all my family or the people that work with me, or my friends from when I was two, three years old,” Schiavone explained afterwards. “I’m so, so happy.”
And asked about the game plan that worked so perfectly, she added: “It was my tactic to keep going to the net, to press her on the backhand and when I had the chance to go on the forehand, because she’s very strong.”
Stosur was at least able to take some comfort from the fact that she had been beaten by an opponent at the top of her game.
“I still don’t think I played that bad,” said the Australian. “She just had her day. She went for it and everything came off.
“You know, it takes guts to do that and she did it. I don’t think I can really say I did anything wrong. It was just well done to her.”
Francesca Schiavone was born on June 23rd, 1980 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francesca_Schiavone
June 23rd, 1980
6 + 23 +1+9+8+0 = 47 = her life lesson = what she is here to learn = The future. Tomorrow. Famous. Name & fame. Notoriety. Name recognition. (Inter)nationally known. High profile. VIP. Well-known. Household name. Public life. Limelight. Legendary. Notable. Noteworthy.