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Schiavone finds nothing is impossible

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Jonathan Overend | 18:07 UK time, Saturday, 5 June 2010

It was the perfect demonstration of the sporting value of perseverance.

Francesca Schiavone, who turns 30 on the third day of Wimbledon, is the second-oldest first time Grand Slam champion in the open era, behind Ann Jones in 1969.

And the comprehensive defeat of Sam Stosur in Saturday's French Open final was a huge leap into unknown territory for the Italian.

Her major championships have, more often than not, ended in the first week with a distinctly average record including 17 defeats in either the first or second rounds.

In the first round of Wimbledon in 2006, attempting to serve and volley under the guidance of legend Martina Navratilova, she lost to Britain's Mel South, who at the time was ranked 305.

It could have been the same here because in round one she trailed the world number 70 Regina Kulikova by one set to love on one of the outside courts. It turned out to be the only set she lost in the whole championship.

Francesca Schiavone with the French Open trophySchiavone played a tactically perfect match to beat Stosur. Photograph: Getty.

At the 39th attempt, she is a major champion - the first woman from Italy to hold that honour - and remarkably it's only her fourth title in 10 years on the tour.

She did it with an ambitious, assertive and tactically brilliant performance which ended the hopes of the pre-final favourite, Stosur.

Always thinking, always attacking, Schiavone carved open the court with angles - especially effective when sending Stosur scampering out to her forehand wing.

Her volleys hardly ever let her down when she charged the net, sometimes even behind service returns, and the kick serve was particularly brutal. This was, in many ways, a throwback to a bygone era of women's tennis - and how refreshing it was to see.

Sometimes you fear for your sanity on women's final day at the French Open. Are there sufficient crosswords in the paper? Does the double-fault column on the statistics computer stretch to double figures?

Heavy baseline hitting, up and down until someone misses, appears to be the standard game of the modern one-dimensional player.

But last year's finalists - Svetlana Kuznetsova and Dinara Safina - will crash to 19 and 20 in the world respectively next week as Schiavone and Stosur, two players with more varied games, consolidate inside the top 10.

In some ways it's a swap which tells a story of styles. This was a compelling final, full of variety and winners, and Stosur more than played her part.

She couldn't repeat the brilliance of her wins over Henin and Serena but her performance was far superior to that of many recent Roland Garros finalists, some of whom have been to number one in the world.

As Schiavone said afterwards: "You are young, you can do it!" And, at the age of 26, the Australian certainly can challenge again.

Can Schiavone? It's tempting to say that this will almost certainly be her only major title but, as the slogans read on the T-shirts of her team, "Schiavone: Nothing is Impossible".


  • Comment number 1.

    great article

  • Comment number 2.

    Francesca was a joy to watch. A wonderful varied brave game. She so deserved this win. Nice to see someone with personality!

  • Comment number 3.

    its been proven again and again, to be a champion and win majors you have to go all out, be assertive, aggressive and take you chances, can't win being defensive and wait for chances...that's what Schiavone's done today, something Federer has done again and again to be a top grand slam champion.

    Robin has to do it tomorrow if he's to have any chance again Nadal...bring it on Men's final!

  • Comment number 4.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 5.

    tennis finally came to the women's side of the french open,after watching serena trying to overpower every one and venus's rather nasty clothing,this match was tennis classic.first the players were so nicely attired,so apart from stosur's brand name specs the focus was only on the tennis and they duely dilivered.thanks ms schiavone and ms stosur for tactical and thinking tennis see you at wimbledon

  • Comment number 6.

    I couldn't agree more with your sentiments. A great final full of attacking tennis and variety, angles, volleys etc, albeit Stosur's volleying was largely disastrous! Made for a thoroughly entertaining match. Well done Schiavone for making a case for the old guns!

    Looking forward to Nadal v RSod tomorrow. RSod has to attack and bring his A game to have a chance! Could be a classic!

  • Comment number 7.

    the variety in Schiavone's game eventually undid Stosur who wasn't allowed to get into any rhythm at all. it is this variety that saw Schiavone outdo Wozniacki in the earlier rounds. Always great to see that beaming smile on the face of Schiavone. wonderful story at 29. couldn't have happened to a nicer person. Forza Francesca

  • Comment number 8.

    So nice to see tennis instead of the tedious serve volley stuff. I am really happy for Francesca, even though I'm Australian. The Cadel Evans of women's tennis. She never gives up and works so hard you feel the pain just watching.

  • Comment number 9.

    The whole charade merely proves that the French Open Ladies Event is to a large extent, a lottery . In this instance it threw up a total journeyman in the personage of whirling dervish called Schiovane -4 titles in 10 years and fair to say - little more to come!! I am old enough to remember a Wibledon Final in 1954 where a similar unheralded Check gentlemen did a number on the great Ken Rosewall. As I recall he never won anything of note before or after that event. One hopes the Signora enjoys her lottery money..............................

  • Comment number 10.

    I was less impressed by the quality of this final than most it seems.
    Stosur was uptight and could not get going , her service which is big part of her game was clearly off and she made too many errors that made Schiovane look a lot better than she actually is.
    She is fit enthusiastic and fast around court but not a great player as susequent games will reveal whereas Stosur if she follows the yellow brick road to OZ asks the Wizard for more courage for her nerves , she may go on to bigger things , dont think Schiovane will though , but I wish her well and hope she enjoys her victory and spurs on Italian tennis.

  • Comment number 11.

    "Refreshing" is exactly the word I would use to describe this FO women's final... refreshing to see an all court player with plenty of variety in her game, including volleys, not allowing a powerful baseliner to power her off the court. True, Schivone may not win another tournament of any note, but I'd much rather watch her play like she did today than any of the other baseline one dimensional hitters .. and that includes the men too!

  • Comment number 12.

    powmishpow "players... so nicely attired"" Indeed, because what the players are wearing is always so very important - what century are you from!!!!!

    Just great to see that tennis can still throw up stories like this. Schiavone may never win another tournament, who cares? She'll always have today and it was great to see someone "Seize the day" and win it in style.

  • Comment number 13.

    One of those moments that reminds you what a great a sport tennis is. Unrelenting planning and determination can see an outsider win against the odds.

    Re: the person who said this was like a lottery win. You don't understand sport. At all.

  • Comment number 14.

    Nice to hear Stosur's gracious comments about Schiavone. If only other sportsmen (let alone Australian sportsmen) showed such class. Stosur slayed a couple of giants on the way to the final: I hope she will be back to take a crown or two before long.

  • Comment number 15.

    It was touch tennis as opposed to power tennis. And it came out flowing. Schiavone was a winsome winner. And so genuinely appreciative of her opponent.

    Her happiness and smile were so spontaneously infectious that I found myself smiling back at the tv screen. For the first time I felt the need to learn how to pronounce a name correctly.

  • Comment number 16.

    I wanted Sam to win; she played superbly for the whole fortnight, she beat superb players, and she went one stage better than last year. However Fran played such a superb match, she totally deserted that triumph. Unfortunately I saw most of the last set only; I've never seen a better tie-break in women's tennis. Perfect shot selection and execution. Congratulations Fran. As for Sam, I'm sure she'll be back, or even make her mark somewhere else, maybe a Cathy Freeman moment at the Oz!

    And for those who said this would be the 'worst grand slam final ever', their big traps have been fully shut and wired. Because maybe this was the best final in a little while.

  • Comment number 17.

    Jonathan, do you not think that your little speech next to your photo is slightly boastful and irritating? Also, to suggest tennis is the most exciting sport in the world at the moment is embarrassingly short sighted. While it might be the favourite sport of those who comment on this page, tennis is going through a pretty dry spell in terms of interest.

  • Comment number 18.

    I've never understood how Italy could be the worlds strongest nation in Fed Cup in recent years but produce relatively nothing in singles. Schiavone was ice cool, focused, I don't think either player bottled it Safina style, and she really deserved it. Gutted for Stosur, but great to see a classic shock final, and an unexpected winner?

    Ps - huge storm earlier here in Paris, starting to clear up now though. Definately not the beautiful weather of yesterday.

  • Comment number 19.

    I am Italian, and I am not pretending to be neutral. But I also love tennis, and I would have supported Francesca in any case, because she showed us that a varied game and tactic can still win matches at the highest level even in modern over-powered tennis. Maybe (maybe!) Francesca will never win again a major, but who cares? Thank you for the wonderful matches that you gave us this week, it was a pleasure to see you.

  • Comment number 20.

    I rarely comment on these blogs but felt compelled to on this one. Jonathan (if I may) your blog was great -- Francesca Schiavone was wonderful! For those who keep banging on that she'll not win again and to the individual who said this was a "lottery" - why don't you all grow up! Schiavone was absolutely fantastic yesterday!! She was such a breath of fresh air!! She fought every single second of the match and did Italy so proud!! It was an honour to watch her play!!!!

  • Comment number 21.

    Great article. It was a really enjoyable final - best that I can remember for many years at the French Open. Schiavone looked like she had nothing to lose. It is so refreshing to see someone who relishes the opportunity rather than looking like a startled rabbit in the headlights. Stosur played well too, admittedly not as well as against Henin, but then she wasn't given the chance to either. I hope it is not the last we see of Schiavone, because she is a joy to watch and Stosur - if she is given the right coach, I think she should be a Wimbledon champion one day. That serve alone, should get her in to the second week now she is ranked in the top 10 and should miss out on the big guns early on. With these ladies, and a Sharapova getting back to her best, there is much to look forward to in the womens game. Finally, at last we are seeing competitive tennis.

  • Comment number 22.

    Vince , good post
    I agree with you and it was a lot of fun to watch such enthusiasm in a player.
    You are right the big power base liners can be quite boring, I missed the Henin match as I enjoy watching her play .
    You never know Francesca may just get her second wind and win another , after all Martina went on for years as a major force.
    At any rate one thing I will say , even though not a big fan of womens tennis , that anyone who is gonna beat Francesca , will have to work hard to do so :)

  • Comment number 23.

    In relation to comments made in my direction by Kotetsu 534:
    Covering sport at a professional level for over 50 years, I believe, gives one "an understanding of what sport is all about " ! It also makes me circumspect about hopeless" sporting romantics" and the pedantic banter they have a propensity to utter...........................!

  • Comment number 24.

    It was indeed a fairy tale. But it was indeed the self belief that worked.
    Franseca did all the running used the angles the drop volleys were great.Reminded of tennis in 70's.
    It was now or never.
    Romantic tennis in Paris!Dream come true!
    Samantha will have her day under the sun.
    It was tennis that won.

  • Comment number 25.

    I just don't get this scene. 4 years ago at Wimbledon the Italian lost in the 1st round to an unheard of British girl who was not even ranked in the top 300. Now as a relative 'veteran' she wins the French Open and displays incredible energy and movement, jumping 6 feet of the ground on occasions. Perhaps I am too suspicious but I can't quite piece all of this together.

  • Comment number 26.

    Don't be like that, James.

  • Comment number 27.

    Congratulations to the winner and her challenger. The two finalists had a dream run at the French Open. Let's hope we get to see them back in the next edition of the Grand Slam. Nice blog Jonathan.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 28.

    powmishpow, i wonder why you only picked on venus and serena. winninig a slam for the first time at 29 with such childish enthusiasm is what made schiavone so very much appealing to most tennis fans. i am a fan of the williams but can't help rooting for francesca. so much innocence at 29. congrats to a great lady.

  • Comment number 29.

    Loved the women's final, more than the men's actually, which was surprising. Those who wrote it off as not being worth watching missed something special, I think. Schiavone was a deserved winner and her utter joy at winning was infectious, although perhaps not to Stosur. I'm sure she'll get another chance though, whereas Schiavone might not have done.

  • Comment number 30.

    Nice piece, Jonathon, it was a remarkable win by Schiavone.

    Perhaps you have been informed of this, but the BBC 10pm news on Saturday did not mention the women's final result (Nadal's win, in contrast, was well covered last night). Pretty poor effort by the editors, or maybe the Beeb doesn't care much about tennis, that suspicion is never far from the surface.

  • Comment number 31.

    sagamix- thanks for your response. Sorry I have to 'be like that' but Schiavone's sudden rise to fame at this late stage of her career mystifies me somewhat, and her unbelievably high volume of energy which she displayed on Saturday puts certain doubts in my mind.

  • Comment number 32.

    As an Aussie expat living in Holland I am a huge Stosur fan, and am gutted that she didn't win. But despite that I have to say that Schiavone played one of the best matches I've ever seen anyone play in a women's final, all the big guns included. She was brilliant, and absolutely deserved to win. Even if this turns out to be a one-off and Schiavone returns to her usual level of playing decent but not great tennis, nothing can detract from her achievement, which will go down in tennis history as one of the classic wins in a grand slam final. Sam meanwhile has shown what she can do, and I think she will be a fixture in the final stages of big tournaments for the next few years.

  • Comment number 33.

    @9 Jim Pilk's memory may be fading.

    Jaroslav Drobny, originally from Czechoslovakia but representing Egypt, won the French title in both 1951 and 1952 as well as Wimbledon in 1954 over Ken Rosewall. I am old enough to have read his autobiography,and a quick internet search will confirm the record.

  • Comment number 34.

    Note to Jim Pilk: sorry, but playing the seniority card doesn't cut it for me. If after 50 years of covering sport all you have to say is that someone who at the age of 30 has never been in a final before is by definition incapable of performing well, I feel a little bit sorry for the people you have been writing for all these years (who?). Did you even watch the final?

  • Comment number 35.

    Game watcher 2010::
    Correction ! what I intended to say was that he (Drobny) never won anything of note after Wimbledon 1954 - he, like Schiovane, was fast reaching tennis pension age ! Hope you are enjoying yours !

  • Comment number 36.

    Touche! Jim Have a good day.

  • Comment number 37.

    note to jim4sam;; Welcome to the "sporting romantics " brigade! an Aussie and a fiesty one at that!!. Anyway, laddie (or lassie ?) how about 32 live Grand Slam Finals at all venues bar Melbourne since 1961 .It seems you have a long way to go..............thats unless you happen to win the lotto!! GODDAY MATE

  • Comment number 38.

    I don't really want to get into a Jimslinging match, but I guess it would be rude not to reply. You haven't yet told me what specifically you didn't like about the final. To be fair, I haven't beeen very specific either about what I did like, so let me kick off with the following. On one side of the net we had the woman who has been called the revelation of the tournament (not really an apt description given her steady rise through the rankings since coming back from illness and her blistering clay court form coming into RG), who with her controlled power and self-belief demolished the games of 3 ex-number ones, at one point literally knocking Justine Henin to the ground with a vicious kick serve to her famous backhand. On the other side of the net a woman who was maybe a little lucky to reach the final, but seized the opportunity and came into the match (in contrast to aforementioned stars) with a daring plan which she then proceeded to execute to perfection. With cunning spinning balls and acute angles she sowed doubt in the mind of a player who had banned that word from her vocabulary throughout the tournament up to that point. To cap it all she served better than I would have thought possible for such a small woman.
    These were some of the things I liked about the final. Curious to hear what you didn't like.

  • Comment number 39.

    Response (hurriedly) to JIM4SAM:
    Apologies but in transit to SA for World Cup.Hopefully , will be better positioned to respond in a few days. Meanwhile , you might check out whether the " small woman" will be honing her grasscourt skills at Eastbourne!!

  • Comment number 40.

    The prospect of a confrontation between Sam and Francesca at Eastbourne is exciting for sure, but we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves. For a relatively 'small' tournament it has attracted a really strong field, with around 18 players in the top 25 (among them some really exciting prospects like Wickmayer, Rezai and Martinez Sanchez). Furthermore, grass is hardly the favourite surface of either play (although Francesca did quite well last year).

    Concerning Stosur's status as 'revelation of Roland Garros': I really think this tournament should serve as a a wake up call to all those in the sport media who just focus on the big names. Sure, past form is a good predictor of future success, particularly in the big tournaments, but anyone watching Stosur this year should have realized that she had finally harnessed her enormous talent and was going to be a force to be reckoned with. Her annihilation of Zvonareva in the Charleston final showed what she was capable of, and her continued focus for the rest of the clay season showed that she was mentally ready as well. She should have been one of the pre-tournament favourites. Instead she was invisible for the first week, and prior to her match with Henin practically everybody was already looking ahead to the 'expected' match-up between Henin and Williams in the quarters (with Mats Wilander, a self-confessed long time fan of Stosur's game, a notable exception). The funny thing is that the players had way more respect for her than the media, with Henin showing geniune respect rather than the obligatory 'it's going to be a tough match and I'll have to play well' in her pre-match interview. Sport journalists need to start earning their money by telling us something we don't already know ahead of big events.

  • Comment number 41.

    I don't know why reporters have been going on about Francesca Schiavone, as the second-oldest first time Grand Slam champion in the open era, behind Ann Jones (who won Wimbledon) in 1969. Don't forget Ms Jones won the French Championships, herself, twice, in 1961 and 1966 when she was just 23 and 28. The only difference was that the Championships were not yet formally 'open' at thta time...perhaps making Ms Schiavone's achievenent eben more notable, and not fogetting Ms Jones full range of accomplishments!

  • Comment number 42.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?


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