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Outsiders to have their day in Paris

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Jonathan Overend | 17:38 UK time, Thursday, 3 June 2010

After the recent domination of Belgians and Russians and Serbs and Williams, we have an Australia-Italy Grand Slam final completely out of the blue.

Stosur, the 26-year-old from the Gold Coast, is the first Australian woman to reach a major final in 30 years, while the appearance of Schiavone, the 29-year-old from Milan, means Italy is represented in a women's Grand Slam singles final for the first time in history.

Stosur thrashed the volatile fourth seed Jelena Jankovic to add to her previous conquests of Justine Henin and Serena Williams.

The Aussie played well again but what was Jankovic doing?

stosur.jpgStosur became the first Australian woman to reach a Grand Slam final since Wendy Turnbull in 1980. Photograph: Getty.

After losing a miserable first set 6-1, the Serb won the first seven points of the second set, 10 out of the first 11, and looked to have found her form with a series of clean forehands.

But inexplicably, after losing the third point of the third game (leading 2-0, 30-0) she seemed to self-combust for no obvious reason. The familiar complaint to her box, the familiar frustrated gesture with her left hand. Bad news, both.

She didn't win another game in the match and even her normally supportive mother gave up before the final game, leaving her seat and standing in the gangway, departing for good once Stosur moved 30-15 ahead.

What a story if the late blooming Aussie goes on to win from here.

Her record of 11 first-round defeats from her first 22 Grand Slam singles events hardly suggested a major winner of the future.

And her recovery form the debilitating Lyme disease, which has been well documented over the past couple of years here in Paris, provides a human interest for the neutrals on Saturday.

Schiavone has a Grand Slam record which, while trumping Stosur for mediocrity, does win prizes for longevity.

This is her 39th successive Grand Slam event since her debut at the 2000 US Open, but only twice before had she made a quarter-final. A collection of first, second and third-round defeats makes her major championship listing in the media guide instantly skippable.

But congratulations to her - a worthy finalist here in Paris.

It's just a shame she couldn't celebrate properly because she was as stunned as the rest of us when her semi-final opponent, Elena Dementieva, decided to quit at the end of their first set tie-break.

Dementieva had disguised the severity of her calf muscle tear extremely well, fighting hard in a 69-minute set, but the pain was clearly too great.

She debated whether to even take the court, taking a series of pain killers before the match, and afterwards admitted she would have retired even if she had won the set.

It was a shame at the time, and some people were seething in the corridors ("how can you do that in a major semi-final?"), but it must have been agony to abandon a chance of a Grand Slam final without even calling for the trainer.

By the sound of it, the crowd were fortunate to get one competitive set and, in any case, it lasted six minutes more than the one-sided second semi which followed.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Never mind nationalities, I'm just happy that two players who might be called journeymen have made the final. After seeing so many teens come in and burn out before they're 25 (e.g. Vaidisova - she's getting married next month - wishing her all the best!), it's good to see two women above 25 make the final.

    That's not quite fair, I suppose - the Belgians and the Williams are between 27 and 30 - but they made their mark well before they were 25. So it feels different, more like real life. (Of course, in real life, life begins at 30, or 40, or 50, depending on where you want to move the goalposts to.)

    But it's nice to have grinders rather than grunters, women rather than girls, 'unknowns' (if you only follow singles tennis at slams) rather than knowns, late bloomers rather than young guns... you know what I mean.

    Hopefully neither will suffer from nerves on Saturday. After all, this isn't the first Grand Slam final for either of them. For Francesca Schiavone (who incidentally was born six days after Venus) it's the second - she reached the French Open doubles final in 2008 partnering an Australian.

    Yeah, Casey Dellacqua was the last Aussie to reach a French Open senior final. (Unless you really want to count Pat Cash reaching the legends u45 men's doubles final last year. But I said senior, not Senior, so it's Dellacqua.)

    As for Sam Stosur, this is actually her ninth Grand Slam final. She's won titles at every Grand Slam event - two women's doubles titles (US 2005, French 2006) & 2 mixed doubles (Australian 2005, Wimbledon 2008) - and reached women's doubles finals four other times.

    While we kinda expect Saturday to be Schiavone's swansong and for the tough Italian to retire gracefully into the sunset, revered by Italians and the tennis profession (esp for her Fed Cup wins), we have loftier expectations for Stosur.

    I dunno when was the last time someone won their first singles Slam at over 25 - surely not as far back as Gomez back in 1990 - but it's nice to see someone get to this stage late for a change. I don't know if she can reach #1, but women's tennis needs someone who can take down any of the Williams-Belgian quartet even on their good days.

    In other words, women's tennis needs Sam Stosur. And now, we've finally got her.

  • Comment number 2.

    Fair play to both of them. Schiavone has done incredibly well to get this far but i can't see her beating Stosur. The Aussie has beaten 3 former world number ones enroute to the final and has been playing some great tennis.

    However, most of the matches this year have been quite poor i must admit. One feels that the women's game needs some sort of change to make most of the public interested in it again.

  • Comment number 3.

    Changes I'd like to see to women's tennis
    - matches in the second week of a slam are best of five instead of best of three
    - point penalties for grunting
    - point penalties for taking too long between points (also for men)
    - towels only given to players during changeovers (also for men)
    - more female players wearing shorts instead of skirts

    On a different note, I was curious about the answer to the question I asked in my previous post (clearly I have no life) :

    Q: How many women have won their first Grand Slam singles title after the age of 25?

    A: I could be wrong here, since I went back manually to check the record, but the answer seems to be just three since the Open Era began in 1968.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Grand_Slam_Women%27s_Singles_champions

    Amélie Mauresmo (2006 Australian) 26 years, 6 months, 23 days
    Jana Novotna (1998 Wimbledon) 29 years, 9 months, 2 days
    Kerry Melville Reid (Jan 1977 Australian) 29 years, 5 months, 2 days

    (There are more names if you go further back, like Nancy Richey, but someone else can go back and compile the full list.)

    This answer will be four in 48 hours, since on Saturday the ages of the finalists will be
    Sam Stosur 26 years, 2 months, 6 days
    Francesca Schiavone: 29 years, 11 months, 13 days

    I would have liked to have checked how many women reached their first Slam final after 25, but I didnt have the list of runner ups. The only one I could remember was Novotna's opponent in that 'Battle of the Oldies' Wimbledon 1998 final, Nathalie Tauziat, who was 30 years, 8 months, 17 days.

    Incidentally, eight days after Tauziat reached the Wimbledon final, her cousin Didier Deschamps captained the French national team to victory in the World Cup. Quelle famille!

  • Comment number 4.

    Jonathan, what about their previous meetings and head-to-head record? Any info?

  • Comment number 5.

    #4 - the WTA site has a head-to-head compare thingy for any two players. Unfortunately, it only shows results for singles matches and excludes exhibition matches, but I suppose that's what you want here.

    http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/headtohead/samantha-stosur_2255881_7941/0,,12781%7E7941%7E7820,00.html

    Sam & Fran have met five times in official singles matches between 2005 and 2009. Fran only won the first time, in 2005 on a hard court. Since then Sam has won, twice on hard courts, twice on clay.

    I find it difficult to believe that they haven't met more often in doubles, though.

  • Comment number 6.

    Addendum to #3

    http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/news/20100603/roland-garros-final-preview_2256076_2064395

    The WTA site says "If Schiavone wins, she'll be the second oldest first-time Grand Slam champion after Ann Jones, who was 30 years 9 months when she won Wimbledon in 1969"

    This isn't true - the UK's Ann Haydon Jones won the French Open in 1961 (at age 23) and 1966. Those were before the Open Era began, but still count as Grand Slam titles.

    In other words, if Francesca wins, she will be the oldest first-time ladies grand slam winner, at least in the Open Era (and possibly all-time).

  • Comment number 7.

    I think we are going to see a lot of Sam over the next few years. I hope so anyway !

    A refreshing good sport. No grunting...no tantrums... A reminder of Aussie's golden tennis days when the players were fun, irreverent with little ego, no grunting and let their racquets do the talking.

    Sam will get so much confidence from thi tourney. She clearly has the skills and mind. Go Sam !!!!

  • Comment number 8.

    "But it's nice to have grinders rather than grunters"

    Er, Schiavone is a grunter...

  • Comment number 9.

    I have been following SS for the last two years and i think the key part about her game is her serve, clearly better honed due to her pedigree in doubles. As one of the commentators said against JJ, it is like a mans in terms of power accuracy and also spin with the second serve. This means it is far easier for her plough through lesser players and also the smaller players.

    However FS kind of came out of nowhere but as an above poster said she has an impeccable davis cup record and having watched a few of her matches she is actually a very good clay court player. However she has had a rather easy run to the final and i can't help but think that if she had had the same run to the final stosur had that she would have exited at the quarter finals rather than making the final. Obviously though, you can only beat what is in front of you so she does deserve this final.

    But for me this is going to be the start of a lot of big things for stosur in singles as she has the game to adapt to all surfaces with a very nice slice backhand.

    But, for today! Roll on the mens semis although i think they could potentially also be one sided with nadal thrashing meltzer and soderling thrashing berdych but we shall have to see. I tipped sod to win it this year and even if he doesn't i hope (providing results go as i predict) he can have an epic final with nadal :D.

  • Comment number 10.

    #8 I stand corrected :-)

    Addendum to #3, #6 : I asked the WTA about why Ann Jones was considered the oldest debut Slam winner in the Open Era when she'd already won a Slam before the Open Era. They replied I 'Yes, the stats are all regarding the Open Era, which is why the 1961 Grand Slam doesn't count'.

    They also pointed me to the (actually quite good) match notes for the final here:
    http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/SEWTATour-Archive/Archive/MatchNotes/2010/903_current.pdf

    On Page 1 it happily tells you that there have been five debut winners over Stosur's age: Ann Jones, Jana Novotna, Kerry Melville-Reid, Amelie Mauresmo, Margaret Court... so Schiavone/Stosur can become the 2nd/6th oldest debut winner.

    Margaret Court? They say that Margaret Court is currently the fifth oldest debut winner coz she was 26 years old when she won the 1969 Australian Open? What about the THIRTEEN slams she won before 1968? Good grief... there is no way one can compare Jones or Court as debut finalists/winners in the same way Stosur and Schiavone are.

    Here's how things stand then, for debut winners - with asterisks taken from elsewhere in the media notes - and Saturday's finalists slotted in for comparison.

    Ann Jones** (GBR) 30 years, 8 months, 28 days - 1969 Wimbledon
    (Francesca Schiavone (ITA) 29 years, 11 months, 14 days)
    Jana Novotna (CZE) 29 years, 9 months, 3 days - 1998 Wimbledon
    Kerry Melville-Reid (AUS) 29 years, 5 months, 3 days - 1976 Australian Open
    Amélie Mauresmo (FRA) 26 years, 6 months, 24 days - 2006 Australian Open
    Margaret Court* (AUS) 26 years, 6 months, 11 days - 1969 Australian Open
    (Samantha Stosur (AUS) 26 years, 2 months, 7 days)

    * Court won her first Grand Slam title at 1960 Australian Championships aged 17 years, six months, and followed with 12 more titles between 1960 and 1966
    ** Jones won two pre-Open Era Grand Slam titles: her first at 1961 French Championships, aged 22 years, eight months and a second at the French again in 1966

    On another nitpicky note, whoever made that document does not list the 1968 French Open final in the table on page 1 for 'Open Era: Both players making Grand Slam final debut'. So much for consistency...

    Not that this detracts from anyone's achievements in any way, of course.

    PS: If Schiavone does beat Stosur tomorrow, I'll eat my cat. As I cannot possibly eat my cat, Stosur will win tomorrow. So there.

    PS: I did say that the media notes were rather good, didn't I? Here's a gem - the projected rankings for next week, with the pre-French-Open rankings in ().

    1 (1) Serena Williams (USA)
    2 (2) Venus Williams (USA)
    3 (3) Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)
    4 (4) Jelena Jankovic (SRB)
    5 (5) Elena Dementieva (RUS)
    6 Winner of Final: (7) Samantha Stosur (AUS) / (17) Francesca Schiavone (ITA)
    7 Runner-Up: (7) Samantha Stosur (AUS) or (17) Francesca Schiavone (ITA)
    8 (8) Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)
    9 (10) Kim Clijsters (BEL)
    10 (15) Flavia Pennetta (ITA)
    11 (12) Li Na (CHN)
    12 (14) Marion Bartoli (FRA)
    13 (20) Nadia Petrova (RUS)
    14 (18) Shahar Peer (ISR)
    15 (11) Victoria Azarenka (BLR)
    16 (16) Yanina Wickmayer (BEL)
    17 (13) Maria Sharapova (RUS)
    18 (23) Justine Henin (BEL)
    19 (6) Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)
    20 (9) Dinara Safina (RUS)

    So Justine's finally back in the top 20, Dinara's nearly out of it, and Peer is now peerless in Israeli tennis as the highest ranking Israeli player ever (Smashnova in 2003 and Peer in 2007 both each reached No.15, the document tells us).

    Schiavone is the 101st player to break the top 10 since computer rankings introduced in 1975. #99 was Li Na and #100 was Sam Stosur.

    This is also the first time since 2003 when there was only one woman in the top ten (Myskina). Wow - I can't remember back that far.

    I also can't remember the last time in men's or women's tennis that the #1 and #2 singles players in the world also formed the #1 doubles team. I'm not a Serena fan (I like Venus) but I really really respect the Williams sisters for playing doubles! They won today, and now have a non-calender-year grand slam in doubles (i.e. they are currently the defending doubles champs for all four slams). [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 11.

    This is also the first time since 2003 when there was only one woman in the top ten (Myskina).

    ==>

    This is also the first time since 2003 when there was only one RUSSIAN woman in the top ten (Myskina).

 

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