Francesca Schiavone fell to the court after becoming the first Italian woman to win a Grand Slam tennis title, then rolled over to kiss the red clay.
There still was dirt on her white shirt as she hugged the French Open champion’s trophy. A few minutes later, she got a phone call from the president of Italy.
The 29-year-old Schiavone, who defeated Australia’s Samantha Stosur 6-4, 7-6 (7-2), became the oldest female player to capture her first major title since 30-year-old Briton Ann Jones won the 1969 Wimbledon title. Schiavone turns 30 on June 23.
“It’s more than special,” the 17th-seeded Schiavone said in an interview with a small group of reporters at Roland Garros after the match. “If I win this trophy, it means that I really could, because I had all the qualities to win.”
In the men’s final today, Spain’s Rafael Nadal will try to win his fifth French Open crown against Sweden’s Robin Soderling, the only man to ever defeat Nadal at Roland Garros. If Nadal wins, he will regain the No. 1 world ranking from Switzerland’s Roger Federer.
After being draped in her nation’s flag by friends and family -- most of whom had driven overnight from Italy -- Schiavone hugged the trophy she received from former champion Mary Pierce. Then she got the call from Italian president Giorgio Napolitano.
“Congratulations,” he told Schiavone. “Enjoy this moment. It was an honor for Italy.”
Schiavone rushed to the net 15 times, only once losing the point, for a 93 percent success rate -- as opposed to 61 percent (11 of 18) for Stosur at the net. That was part of the game plan Schiavone devised with her coach before the most important match of her life.
‘Take My Chance’
“My goal was to play aggressive,” said Schiavone, who frequently stepped inside the baseline to attack Stosur’s serve. “‘Go inside and take my chance. I focus on this kind of thing. And the rest was coming step by step.”
Stosur, 26, wasn’t able to put Schiavone under pressure with her high kick serve and top-spin forehand, which had led her to victory in earlier rounds against former champions Justine Henin of Belgium and Serena Williams of the United States.
“She just had her day,” the seventh-seeded Australian said in a news conference. “She was putting a lot of pressure on me and really forcing what was happening, so maybe that was kind of why I didn’t look the same as maybe other matches.”
Stosur overcame a match point against top seed and 12-time Grand Slam champion Williams in the quarterfinals, after handing four-time champion and pre-tournament favorite Henin her first loss at Roland Garros since 2004 in the fourth round. Stosur conceded three games in the semifinals against former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic of Serbia.
Schiavone, three inches shorter than the 5-foot-8 Stosur, had six aces -- three more than Stosur. The Italian was never overcome by nerves, in spite of playing in her first major final.
“The technique, you can practice hard and you can really improve,” she said. “The mind is a muscle, so you have to work at the same hours and the same intensity as a technique or a muscle.”
Winning her first major title after a dozen years on the pro tour has its advantages, Schiavone said.
“When you are 28, 27 you can be much more conscious,” she said. “You can really live and feel what’s going on with you, and where your power is. When you are 20, it’s a bit different. It’s like the first kiss.”
Building for Future
“She’s obviously fit and healthy, and it doesn’t matter what the age,” the Australian said. “If you’ve got that desire, anyone can do it. I think it proves you don’t have to be the teenage wonder kid superstar to win a tournament like this.”
Schiavone earned 1.1 million euros ($1.3 million) for the win.
“It’s time to take this money and to build something for my life in the future,” said Schiavone, who had won $312,192 this season before Roland Garros. “I hope to have a family and I hope to have a beautiful house. I will invest this money not just for me, but also for people that really need it, like a charity.”