Schiavone is just the ticket after favourite falters
Sunday 06 June 2010
The approaches to Roland Garros are normally swarming with ticket touts, but yesterday there were hardly any to be seen.
If a final between Francesca Schiavone and Samantha Stosur was bad news for the black market, however, a packed Court Philippe Chatrier had no reason for complaint. The Italian and the Australian produced one of the better French Open women's finals of recent years before Schiavone, the world No 17, won 6-4 7-6.
Having beaten Justine Henin and Serena Williams en route to the final, Stosur had been a warm favourite to become the first Australian woman to win here since Margaret Court in 1973, but the world No 7 was outfoxed and outplayed by the first Italian woman to reach a Grand Slam singles final.
Just 18 days short of her 30th birthday, Schiavone became the second oldest first-time Grand Slam champion in the Open era since Ann Jones won Wimbledon in 1969 at 30 years and eight months. Only Sue Barker, who won in 1976 when No 18 in the world, has triumphed here with a lower ranking, though Schiavone will climb to No 6 in tomorrow's updated list.
Stosur's fearsome serve and forehand never quite fired, but credit had to go to Schiavone, who took the Australian's biggest shots and returned them with interest. Stosur is a former world No 1 doubles player, but it was Schiavone who hit the more assured volleys and penetrating serves. "She went for it and everything came off," Stosur said afterwards. "I didn't think I played badly."
Having dropped serve at 4-4 on a double fault, Stosur lost the first set when she volleyed wide and put a poor backhand in the net. The Australian held firm, however, saving two break points in the third game of the second set and then breaking Schiavone for the only time. Stosur led 4-1, only to drop serve again with her worst game of the match.
From 3-2 up in the tie-break Schiavone played four superb points. A big forehand winner and two smart volleys behind excellent approaches created match point, which she converted with a big looping cross-court backhand.
Schiavone (below) had won only three titles and £3.39m in prize money before arriving here. She leaves with a winner's cheque for €1.12m (£927,000) and a bonus of €400,000 (£331,000) from the Italian federation.
"I'd always dreamed of winning a Grand Slam and I'd always believed in myself," she said. "I think my victory shows that anybody can be who they want to be and do everything in their life."
Elena Baltacha, the British No 1, beat the American Carly Gullickson 6-2 6-3 to win the final of the Aegon Trophy grass-court tournament in Nottingham.
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
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