Experience tells as Li and Schiavone line up a final of rare vintage
Friday 03 June 2011
The French Open began with a 20-year-old, in Caroline Wozniacki, as world No 1 and a 21-year-old, in Victoria Azarenka, as the favourite of many to win the title, but it will end with a final between two of the game's more seasoned professionals. Francesca Schiavone, a 30-year-old Italian who compares herself with a wine that improves with age, will defend her title against China's Li Na, a 29-year-old who will be appearing in her second successive Grand Slam final.
If Schiavone's 6-3, 6-3 victory over the local hope, Marion Bartoli, ran true to form, Li's 6-4, 7-5 success against Maria Sharapova was a surprise. The 24-year-old Russian, who needed this title to complete her Grand Slam collection, has been playing the best clay-court tennis of her career this year, though her defeat brought reminders of the problems she has suffered since she last won a major title more than three years ago.
Sharapova had to change her service action following shoulder surgery and 10 double faults underlined the fact that she is not the player she was. The 2004 Wimbledon champion took only three of the 11 break points she created, compared with her opponent's success rate of five from eight.
Li, who lost to Kim Clijsters in the Australian Open final, is aiming to become the first Asian to win a Grand Slam singles title. "It's something important for Chinese tennis because they broadcast the match live on Chinese TV," she said. "I think many children have been able to watch the match and they are maybe thinking that one day they'll be able to do the same, or even better."
When Schiavone won here last year just 18 days before her 30th birthday she was the second oldest first-time Grand Slam champion in the Open era. At No 17 in the world, she was also the lowest-ranked first-time winner for 34 years. The past 12 months have not been easy for the current world No 5, who has not won a title since, but Roland Garros has again brought the best out of her.
"Some years ago the champions were always young players, but now it is changing," Schiavone said. "Years can help a lot, the experience. It's like wine. The more it stays in the bottle, it's much better."
Mayweather-Pacquiao: Ricky Hatton, Mike Tyson, Ronda Rousey and more make their predictions
Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
How Liverpool can catch Manchester United and still qualify for the Champions League
Kyle Walker video: Tottenham defender categorically denies 'disgusting' rumours on Facebook
Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao: What time does it start and where can I watch it?
- 1 Avengers: Age of Ultron: Nearly 700 German cinemas refuse to show movie
- 2 Donald Trump decides that Baltimore riots are Barack Obama's fault
- 3 X Factor in crisis as numbers of people auditioning plummets
- 4 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
- 5 Baltimore riots: Furious mother marches her son home live on TV
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia