The Next Step... Saturday's Final
June 3, 2010 -- Australians are abuzz. Their Samantha Stosur made it to her second consecutive final at Roland Garros. This time she is the heavy favorite because along her way through the 2010 women's singles draw 'Sammy' took out Justine Henin and Jelena Jankovic -- two former number one players -- plus Serena Williams, the current number one player in the world.
"I think beating the caliber of players I've played the last three rounds definitely helps me for Saturday's match. I've beaten all those, so why can't I win one more?" Stosur said immediately following her win over Serbian Jelena Jankovic in the first women's semifinal of the day.
Francesca Schiavone (#17 seed) will stand across the net from Stosur on Saturday. She is the first Italian woman to reach the women's championship match in the history of Roland Garros.
Today, Schiavone played a shortened match against Elena Dementieva (#5 seed) as she retired with a left calf injury immediately following her loss of the first set tiebreak.
"I won the first set not waiting for her mistake," Schiavone said. "I push and try to do something. So was happy to catch that set. Then when I was ready to take a towel, I saw her too close. I say, maybe something happen. And for ten seconds, I couldn't realize. Then when you shake the hands, it's finish."
Schiavone stood with her mouth agape, as Dementieva shook her hand and quickly turned to the chair umpire. She watched but looked dazed. Finally, she glanced at her friends' box and her big smile spread across her face timidly at first, but then with gusto.
She kissed the red clay, once again, a signature gesture for Schiavone. She had never kissed a court surface before her win over Caroline Wozniacki in the quarterfinal.
"It was good. So good," Schiavone told the press about the taste of the court.
Neither woman is as tall as the average tour player today. Stosur is a bit under five-eight and Schiavone a midget by today's standards at five-five. However, their physical size has no bearing on their skills and mental strength, especially at this stage of the tournament.
Schiavone, who will be 30 next month, will have her hands full with Stosur's serve and forehand. But the little Italian is so comfortable on red clay, and so quick, and so versatile that Sammy could be thrown off balance. Throw in the mighty mind mishmash that most likely will interfere between the ears of both women, and the scoreline could go in unexpected directions.
Schiavone has three tour career singles titles and seven tour doubles titles. She was the finalist in women's doubles at Roland Garros in 2007, playing with Australian Casey Dellacqua. Schiavone has played in every major tournament for the last ten years.
Stosur's rise in the WTA Sony Ericsson Tour's rankings has been steep. In 2008 she was #52. In 2009, she tickled the top ten at 13. Currently, she is #7.
She has 2 singles tour titles and 22 tour doubles titles and, what we could call, a career 'Stosur Doubles Slam.' In 2006, alongside Lisa Raymond, they won women's doubles at that French Open. In 2005 they won the U. S. Open. Also in 2005, Stosur and Aussie Scott Draper captured the Mixed Doubles crown at The Australian Open. Finally, Stosur and Bob Bryan won Mixed Doubles at The Championships Wimbledon.
No wonder people associated Samantha Stosur so readily with doubles.
Stosur's record on clay this year is 20-2. Her first premier clay-court title came at The Family Circle Cup in April where she trounced Vera Zvonareva in fifty-three minutes, the shortest final in that tournament's history.
"We could clearly see from Sam Stosur's dominance at the Family Circle Cup that she was going to perform strongly at The French Open," Eleanor Adams, Family Circle Cup Tournament Manager said today in an email.
Interestingly, women who have won The Family Circle Cup have gone on in uncanny numbers to win Roland Garros: Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Mary Pierce, Jennifer Capriati, and Justine Henin.
"It's great to see Sam joining those ranks with her performance so far this year," Adams added.
Could Samantha's Daniel Island triumph foreshadow Saturday's outcome?
"It is a final," Samantha started. "It's different. It's one of those moments that I just want to enjoy. Win or lose, I want to enjoy it and make the most of that opportunity because you never know if that's gonna happen again."
Schiavone was just as noncommittal. "I really don't know, but I'm really happy to be here. I will go on the court and I will fight at the best that I can."
Margaret Court, the last Australian woman to win The French Open in 1973, told The Australian newspaper from her home in Perth, "It would be great for women's tennis, for the whole game here."
Like Court, Stosur was not raised on red clay courts. Stosur has come to like the surface as her confidence and match record has expanded.
"I just knew I could chase down every ball and stay with them," Court added. "Stosur's very capable. And she's fit enough. Everything looks all right, so no reason why she can't do it."
Margaret Court holds the most major titles in women's singles -- 24.
As a final note... Australian junior tennis hopeful James Duckworth, a wildcard entry, has reached the semifinals in the Boys' Singles Championship at Roland Garros, having trounced #3 seed Gianni Mina in the previous round.
Who knows... an Australian revival could be mighty good for tennis.