Francesca Schiavone said that she has improved with age after the defending champion ended French hopes of Roland Garros glory with a semi-final win over Marion Bartoli.
Veteran Schiavone outlasts young Bartoli
Francesca Schiavone said that she has improved with age after the defending champion ended French hopes of Roland Garros glory with a semi-final win over Marion Bartoli yesterday.
The 30-year-old Milanese gave a typically battling display to reach the French Open final with a 6-3 6-3 victory over the local hope with her usual array of drop shots and slices combined with a steely determination to block out the noisy crowd.
Schiavone meets Li Na of China, at 29 another late bloomer, in tomorrow's final.
"It means that years can help a lot - the experience. Some years ago the champions were always young players. Now it is changing," Schiavone told reporters as she looked forward to only her second grand slam final.
"It's like wine. The more it stays in the bottle, it's much better."
Schiavone was a shock winner on the Paris clay last year but the fifth seed has had the look of a contender from the start this time as bigger names were knocked out early.
A break for 5-3 in the first set came at the right time for the Italian after cagey exchanges that were peppered with a neat drop shot or volley in the wind.
The second set was topsy-turvy, with Bartoli, the French 11th seed and 2007 Wimbledon runner-up, going 2-0 up, but Schiavone fought back and eventually won when Bartoli netted.
"I think I handled the pressure well, but I think Francesca played extremely well today in the conditions, [as] it was really windy. In the end she was a bit too tough," said Bartoli after her first French Open semi-final.
A small contingent of Schiavone fans kept up their support despite being vastly outnumbered by French supporters on Court Philippe Chatrier, and often the only chants that could be heard were Italian.
"The crowd today was fantastic with Marion - they supported her from the first point to the end. It's great to have 15,000 persons with you, but I have to say thanks to my 50 or 100 fans who came today," Schiavone said.
In a separate issue, Bartoli said she is prepared to snub a second successive Olympic Games in her long-running feud with her country's tennis federation.
Bartoli has been coached by her father, Walter, since she was a child and their independent status has ruled her out of Fed Cup contention, where coaches are all appointed by the federation.
To be eligible for the 2012 Olympics, a player must be available for Fed Cup selection.
"There is no animosity, no open conflict or war. I always have the same attitude. I said I had nothing against the Fed Cup," Bartoli said.