Schiavone's underplayed story was victory for maturity, variety
So the aftermath for
Simple-minded, I say. That French Open final provided some of the most memorable scenes in years, and it should be remembered with the great moments in women's tennis.
I'm happy to say I was an emotional wreck by the finish, watching in a misty-eyed trance from my living room as Schiavone hugged her many supporters and spoke so eloquently to the crowd. I'm glad to know that
Listen, Schiavone's 6-4, 7-6 conquest of
Well, first of all, by the end of Saturday's match, Francesca Schiavone was as beautiful as any woman in the world. There will be no glamour spreads for this lifelong tomboy who plays a mannish type of game, but what carried her to this moment -- ingenuity, devotion, desire -- burst forth in endearing smiles, gestures and words.
"I had always watched Schiavone, but I'd never met her, and I thought her kind of a dour presence," said Robinson, who worked the match with
Carillo was quietly cheering like mad, delighted to see such magnificence from one of her favorite players. "Forza Francesca!" Carillo said via e-mail. "So nice to see such emotion, elation. I've always admired Frankie for her fitness -- especially those sturdy, highly Italian-looking legs. She walks like the women do in all the mountain villages: quickly, stoutly, resolute. So alive. Boy, I enjoyed that one."
The plain fact is that from the standpoint of pure tennis, this was one of the best French Open finals in memory, rivaled only by
She was unpredictably inventive with her mix of pace, spin and rushes to the net, where she converted 14 of 15 points with relentlessly crisp volleying. She answered Stosur's power with aggression, alternating topspin and slice with that most refreshing sight in women's tennis, the one-handed backhand. She looked to be as fit and aware as anyone in the tournament, and when someone asked her afterward why her game had ascended so late in life, she answered, "Why late? Could be late for you, could be good for you. Maybe before, I wasn't ready. I think it's my time now."
Stosur, who has been around longer than some people realize (turned pro in 1998, played her first major eight years ago), could only marvel at Schiavone's quickness. "It doesn't matter what the age. If you've got that desire, anyone can do it," she said. "I think it proves you don't have to be the teenage wonderkid superstar to win a tournament like this."
So few players on the women's tour -- and we're talking about the highest level -- can even relate to Schiavone's approach. They know just one way to play -- blast, then blast again, then blast even harder -- and if it doesn't work, well, maybe next week. Here's how a single point separated Schiavone from that depressing monotone:
She leads 5-2 in the tiebreaker. She knows she can't let Stosur back into the match; it has to end right now. She lashes a cross-court forehand deep, forcing Stosur to recover on the run, and the moment Stosur shows her hand -- there won't be a lot of force behind this get -- Schiavone races from the baseline to the net. She's there in an instant. It's a risky move that forces her into a delicate backhand drop-volley off her shoetops, but she flicks a perfect cross-court winner.
"No!" McEnroe shouted in amazement from the NBC both. That did
"I got an e-mail from
Maybe I'm well past the corner of Reasonable and Cash Cow, but I would market the hell out of Francesca Schiavone. You hear so much talk about how young girls had better make it big in tennis by the time they're 16, or it's all over, and it's complete nonsense. This was a victory for maturity, reaching the heights of glory at your physical peak. It's about a woman who kept the faith over a long, often-difficult career, all the while showing exceptional loyalty to her country (the U.S. will be up against Schiavone and
I contend that the next really influential player, whether she's from Baltimore, Moscow or Buenos Aires, will have shaken the cookie-cutter baseline doctrine. She won't be a statuesque looker, she'll be a jock, like Schiavone, with great hands and agility, and it won't be about lipstick or photo shoots, but smart, creative tennis and the kind of belief symbolized in those T-shirts they were passing around the Italian contingent on Saturday:
"I just loved watching her go for it," said
If Saturday marked some kind of trifle in tennis' big picture, we aren't seeing it very clearly. We're throwing up an awkward toss and double-faulting horribly into the net.