Doha contender: Francesca Schiavone
Originally published on: 20/10/10 18:08
Age: 30 (June 23, 1980)
Birthplace: Milan, Italy
WTA ranking: No.6
Season best: Winner- Barcelona, Roland Garros.
Season win/loss record: 39-20
Prize money (2010): $2,256,634
Record vs. top eight: Caroline Wozniacki 2-1; Vera Zvonareva 0-10; Kim Clijsters 0-11; Sam Stosur 2-4; Jelena Jankovic 1-3; Elena Dementieva 5-7; Victoria Azarenka 1-2
2010 Grand Slam record: Australian Open R16; Roland Garros W; Wimbledon R128; US Open QF
WTA Championship best: Making her first appearance
Season review: It has been a dream year for the 30-year-old after she rocketed up the rankings with titles in Barcelona and, inspiringly, at Roland Garros.
Kicking off her season ranked at No.17 in the world, many were expecting another solid season – few could have predicted what was to come.
However, there were signs that she might kick on at the back of 2009, when she clinched titles in Osaka, Moscow and then helped her country to Fed Cup victory.
And the Italian continued her winning momentum in Auckland at the turn of the year, when she reached the semi-finals after producing some dominant hard court displays.
The Italian reached the fourth round at the Australian Open, where, after making a bright start, lost 3-6 6-2 6-1 to Venus Williams.
Schiavone continued to dig in on the hard stuff, but it was on her favourite crushed red brick that the Milan-native would truly shine.
Barcelona was to be a significant turning point in Schiavone’s year as she strolled to the title, defeating compatriot Roberta Vinci for the loss of just two games.
Despite early exits in Stuttgart, Rome and a last 16 appearance in Madrid, it was clear that the victory in the Catalan capital was a huge confidence-boost going into the French Open.
What happened next would change the 5ft5 Italian’s life. Crashing through the rounds at Roland Garros, the 17th seed played at her very best as she took down everything in front of her. Her path was far from straightforward – she had to see off Na Li, Maria Kirilenko and then-world No.3 Caroline Wozniacki to become the first Italian since Adriano Panatta to reach a Grand Slam semi-final.
With luck firmly on the Italian’s side, Elena Dementieva was forced to retire injured after Schiavone took the first set on a tiebreak, handing her a place in the final. This alone caused huge jubilation back home, but the story was not about to end there.
Though she was a clear underdog against Australia’s Sam Stosur, unlike her opponent, the occasion did not hinder Schiavone and she rose to the challenge on Court Phillippe Chatrier with a 6-4 7-6(2) triumph. The Italian rolled in the clay Nadal-style as the enormity of her feat sunk in.
Her attacking intent also had people talking up her chances at Wimbledon, but the physical and emotional exertion of Roland Garros took its toll as she crashed in the opening round.
Schiavone struggled to adapt on return to hard courts, but the Italian struggled to adapt at first but returned to form in Montreal, where she reached the quarters.
The No.5 seed turned in another impressive Grand Slam display at Flushing Meadows, where she made the last eight, before falling to Venus Williams for the second time in 2010.
Just like 2009, Schiavone appears to be stringing together a run of wins towards the latter end of the season, making the semis in Tokyo before reaching the quarters at the China Open.
Last year’s WTA Championships: DNP
Schiavone on Doha: “What I want from the Championships is to live everything, every point, with all of myself,” said the Italian. “I deserve to be there. I want to win my matches. For sure I want to enjoy it, but I also want to keep going forward. This is just the start for me.”
Chances: The Italian looks to be peaking at the right point as she heads into her debut end-of-season championships. She’s already proved her capabilities on the biggest stage, and it’d be an apt ending to a terrific year if the 30-year-old could claim the Doha crown.