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By Rohit Sharma
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Samantha Stosur vs. Francesca Schiavone
Stosur leads series 4-1
Last Meeting - 2009 Osaka Final
Stosur won 7-5, 6-1
I remember the day I was asked to write about the French Open Women's Preview about a fortnight ago. We had wrapped up a long weekend covering the Masters Series in Madrid and I was in no mood to write anymore about ARAVANE REZAI, the most sought after tennis star after her Madrid triumph. And to top things up, there was the Serbian Jelena Jankovic and the usual Williams sisters. But my instincts told me that this year is going to see the coronation of a brand new Grand Slam champion. But then we writers are also under obligation to take the safe route and pick the most viable contenders. To be honest, I had not thought in my weirdest dreams that a veteran Italian and an inconsistent Australian will make it to the title match at the year's biggest claycourt tournament. But here they are, to everyone's surprise - Francesca Schiavone and Samantha Stosur.
A final look at these two women, after all that they have accomplished during this fortnight at Roland Garros, makes me realise their immense potential and the ability to go ALL THE WAY at the finest events in the tennis calendar.
Let's put Samantha Stosur's progress in the draw under the microscope first - back-to-back wins over two former champions - Justine Henin and Serena Williams, coupled with a straight sets drubbing of an in-form Jelena Jankovic. There would be a very small bunch of followers who would bet their money against the ferocious Australian. Rightly so as Stosur has been one of the most consistent players since her ground-breaking win over Serena Williams last fall. Her first ever WTA singles win, followed by an entry into the top 10 and the tier-I title in Charleston came as a testimonial of her natural progression as a player. The truth is that Stosur has performed beyond expectations. Her solid play while serving for the match in the decider against Serena Williams showed her mental strength and the willingness to put the bad memories of the second set behind her. This is one quality which quite easily makes her the people's champion, at least at this year's championship.
Stosur's Road to Finals -
R128 def. Simona Halep 7-5, 6-1
R64 def. Rossana De Los Rios 4-6, 6-1, 6-0
R32 def. Anastasia Pivovarova 6-3, 6-2
R16 def. Justine Henin 2-6, 6-1, 6-4
QF def. Serena Williams 6-2, 6-7(2), 8-6
SF def. Jelena Jankovic 6-1, 6-2
Now, Francesca Schiavone's entry into the finals has been no less than a Cinderella story. With her win over Russian Elena Dementieva in the semifinals, Schiavone became the first Italian ever to enter a Grand Slam singles final. Schiavone claimed only her second WTA singles title last year in Moscow at the Kremlin Cup. More success followed when she tested Venus Williams to the limits at this year's Australian Open. The European claycourt season brought Schiavone her third title in Barcelona. Despite a considerably consistent performance, nobody could predict such an astonishing run at Roland Garros. The point that Schiavone benefitted from a favourable draw holds ground for the first couple of matches. But ever since her emphatic victory over Na Li and a straight sets demolition of Dane Caroline Wozniacki, who was the tournament's third seed, Schiavone has proved that her solid run is not a result of some unexpected permutations and combinations.
Schiavone's Road to Finals -
Truth be told, it is much much easier to choose a winner with a Williams or a Belgian in the final. However, with a pair of these low-profile yet extraordinary sportswomen in the championship match, equations are forgotten.
TennisEarth.com Prediction - Samantha Stosur
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