PARIS, France – The name Francesca is derived from the Latin Franciscus, meaning French. So perhaps it was only destiny as Francesca Schiavone, a longshot No.17 seed, would win her first career major at the French Open.
Playing the red hot Samantha Stosur in the final, Schiavone was solid in every way, giving away almost zero free points and taking control of the rallies in many ways – loopy topspin groundies, creativity at the net, crafty retrieving.
After breaking serve in the ninth game of the match and serving out the first set, Schiavone rallied from 4-1 down in the second set against the No.7-seeded Stosur, eventually playing a perfect tie-break to clinch one of the most unlikely Grand Slam title runs in the Open Era – and in tennis history, 64 76(2).
“I didn’t prepare anything, because whenever I prepare something for the future, it doesn’t happen,” Schiavone told the crowd during the trophy presentation. “I’ve watched every final of this tournament and I know what the big champions say. So I want to thank everybody. I felt amazing today. I’m really, really happy.”
Schiavone had a few words to add for Stosur, who, like herself, was in her first major final. “Congratulations Sam. I think you’re a great, great person and a great athlete. You deserve to be here and you’re young, so you’ll do it too.”
Schiavone, who turns 30 years old this month, is the second-oldest player in the Open Era to win their first Grand Slam title (Ann Jones was 30 years, 8 months when she won Wimbledon in 1969). But she doesn’t see things as other players her age may: “I can still improve,” she told Italian reporters earlier in the week. “I can still be more explosive. I can still put more spin on my shots. I can still hit deeper. I can still improve my serve. I’m just beginning.”
“It doesn’t matter what the age – if you’ve got that desire, anyone can do it,” Stosur said. “It proves you don’t have to be a teenage wonderkid superstar.”
Not only was Schiavone the first Italian woman ever to win a major, she was the first to reach a major final, and the first in the Open Era to reach a major semi.
Stosur had been on fire throughout the tournament and the last few months. She has had more clay court wins and more overall wins than anyone else this year, and had beaten three No.1s en route to the final: Justine Henin in the fourth round, Serena Williams in the quarters and Jelena Jankovic in the semis.
“I still don’t think I played that badly. She just had her day. She went for it and everything came off,” a gracious Stosur told the press. “It takes guts to do that.
“I am disappointed, not just because I lost, but it has been a big journey and a great two weeks. I guess I wanted the full fairytale, but it didn’t quite happen.”
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