SCHIAVONE WIN DOWN TO SELF BELIEF

By NBF News
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Impressive Schiavone claims title
By Piers Newbery
French Open champion Francesca Schiavone insisted she had always believed in her potential even if few outsiders imagined she could ever reach the heights of winning a Grand Slam title.

The 29-year-old Italian produced a magnificent performance to defeat pre-match favourite Sam Stosur of Australia 6-4 7-6 (7-2) at Roland Garros on Saturday.

It made Schiavone the first Italian woman to win a Grand Slam title, and the second-oldest woman to claim a first major title after the 30-year-old Ann Jones at Wimbledon in 1969.

“I always believe in myself,” she said. “Not about the trophy or the tournament, but just in myself. I think this was the key to everything. I'm so happy. I'm really so happy.”

Schiavone edged a tight first set with the only break and recovered from 4-1 down in the second to force a tie-break, which she totally dominated.

“I was feeling much more energy and more and more and more,” she said of those closing points. “I couldn't stop it. I really felt that that was my one moment. I took it. I didn't lose the chance. I didn't care about anything, I wanted to take that point and play my tennis. It was the moment.”

The 5ft 5ins Italian did a superb job of keeping the powerful Stosur on the back foot throughout the match and put that down to thorough preparation.

“I prepared the final mentally and tactically very well,” she said. “I was so concentrated on my serve. I tried not to look anywhere but just to feel my play and try to be aggressive as much as I could.”

Schiavone earned £927,000 for her afternoon's work in Paris, over a quarter of what she had accumulated in her previous 12 years as a professional, during which she has only won three other titles.

Her immediate plans could see some of that wealth being called upon.

“I want to go home to mummy and daddy,” she said. “This is my goal for the moment, because usually we do a good dinner or a good lunch for 10 people. Now I think I have to buy a new bigger house, for 50 people.”

The Milanese player, who took a call on court from Italian president Giorgio Napolitano in the moments after her victory, was urged on by a large group of supporters on Court Philippe Chatrier but was surprised to see so many familiar faces, all wearing T-shirts bearing the message: 'Schiavone: Nothing is Impossible.'

Asked to explain the T-shirts, she admitted: “The truth is that I don't know, because they arrived this morning by car and I saw them when I finished. So now I don't know. And they are leaving, so I don't think I will know this for two or three days.”

Schiavone explained her post-match ritual of kissing the clay-courts – “It's to thank this clay, this beautiful tournament and this arena” – but asked to recall her thoughts at the moment of victory, the Italian could only laugh.

“I think that I am a champion, the number one of this tournament,” she said. “We were 128 players, and I am the champion. It's a big emotion. What did Federer say? What did Rafa say? I'm trying to remember, but it's not coming, nothing.”

Stosur had gone into the match as the favourite after successive wins over Justine Henin, Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic but admitted she had been outplayed in the final.

“It's a disappointment no matter what the case, whether I was the favourite or not,” she said. “I mean, sure, going into the match I thought I could win. Past results had gone my way.”

She added: “Right now it's not easy and I really wish I'd won but when you play someone who played well against you, sometimes you've just got to say, 'Too good.'

“I am disappointed. Obviously it's because I lost, but it's just been a big journey and a great two weeks and I guess you wanted the full fairytale, but it didn't quite happen.”

Stosur said that she had known what to expect from Schiavone but just could not handle the Italian's attacking game plan.

“I kind of expected her to be aggressive, because in the other times that we played recently she probably wasn't aggressive enough and I totally dictated what happened and I won them,” said Stosur.

“So I was expecting her to do something different, because if you're going to do the same thing, you're going to get the same result.”

And having improved on last year's run to the semi-finals, Stosur could take at least take comfort from the fact that she is edging closer to a first Grand Slam title.

“I can only look at it as a great two weeks,” she said. “To make my first final was fantastic and to beat the players that I did to get to that point and everything, it's missing that one thing, and that's winning at the end.

“You know, I'm proud of this moment, and I want to look at it as a really positive time in my career, my life, and I want to enjoy it as much as I can.”