Schiavone’s Joy Overshadows Stosur’s Sorrow
It wasn’t how the script was supposed to play out. But then, none of Roland Garros 2010 seemed to follow one. The defending champion lost in the third round to Maria Kirilenko. The queen of Roland Garros fell to seventh seed Sam Stosur. Stsour then came up against the toughest competitor in the WTA and found herself at 6-6 in the third with no tiebreak possible. Serena Williams was supposed to win that one, indeed, she’s the comeback queen that can win from anywhere. Stosur pipped her at the post 8-6. Meanwhile, Kirilenko’s slayer, Francesca Schiavone, was making her way quietly through the draw. She was due to meet Elena Dementieva in the semi-finals and a lot of people hoped the Russian’s time had finally come. Instead she retired after the first set with a leg injury. Nothing was following the correct order and it seemed that Sam Stosur, the Henin, Williams and Jankovic slayer would restore some kind of normality to the French Open. Instead she was beaten in the final by the 29-year-old Schiavone. It certainly wasn’t a good time to be the favourite.
Sam Stosur has always been known for her nerves. Yet the general consensus was that Stosur had overcome them, learned how to make them work for her. It certainly took a lot of nerve to save match point against Williams and fight into a third against Henin. It’s fair to say that perhaps Stosur may have fared better had she come up against a more seasoned opponent, someone who was there to carry the weight of expectation for her, someone the Australian could come up against without feeling any kind of pressure except her own. Instead she had a whole continent behind her, cheering her on but also causing her to feel some nerves. Stosur looked nervous as she stepped onto court and nothing changed throughout the match.
Not that Stosur had much of a chance to get into it. Schiavone was admirable in her execution in the final, the Italian literally played the match of her life. She talked of having fun before the final and she never stopped. Her fist pumps were that of an excitable ten-year old, not a renewed tennis player looking for her maiden Slam. She started with stunning groundstrokes, big serves, and aggressive returns and she kept it up for an entire two sets. She was broken once, a remarkable feat in any game of tennis, not to mention women’s where breaks are exchanged routinely. Once broken Schiavone broke straight back, seemingly not feeling a smidgen of doubt. Once the second set rolled around to a tiebreak fans sensed the match was over. Schiavone was swinging too freely, too confidently to give Stosur even a thought of getting back into the match. As she fell on the ground and rolled in the clay like an energetic puppy she made tennis look how it’s supposed to look, like fun. Schiavone had fun winning her first Slam. How many players can claim that one?
The disappointment on Stosur’s face was as clear as the nerves she showed in her pre-match interview. The Stosur that turned up for the final wasn’t the same girl who bashed fearlessly against Williams, Henin, and Jankovic. It wasn’t a Safina-like collapse, Stosur played well overall. She played well enough to beat most seventeenth seeds. She just didn’t play Grams Slam winning tennis on that particular day and unfortunately that is what the Slams are all about. Luckily for tennis fans Slams are not a rare occurence like the Football World Cup. Slams come around four times a year and whilst Stosur may not be fancying her chances on grass if Roland Garros has taught us anything it is that history means nothing. It’s all about the moment and whilst this one didn’t belong to the Australian with the big serve there will be plenty more chances for her to win a big one. For the moment Australia will have to wait. This moment belongs to a 29-year-old Italian who on her 39th attempt proved that impossible is nothing.