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US Open 2013: Serena Williams vs. Francesca Schiavone Round 1 Preview

By Pawan Atri    + Follow

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Keywords: US Open | Francesca-Schiavone |Serena-Williams
US Open 2013: Serena Williams vs. Francesca Schiavone Round 1 Preview
World No.1 Serena Williams will kick-start the defense of her US Open title under the lights later this evening as she will square-off against the 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone in the first round of the tournament on the Arthur Ashe Stadium at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.

Top seed Serena Williams who is bidding to claim her fifth trophy at Flushing Meadows has a tough opener in her hands at the United States Open in the Big Apple tonight as the Italian Francesca Schiavone has a bagful of tricks to outfox her from the back of the court. Still, the one thing that has to be kept in mind here is that the former top-five player is an aging force on the women’s circuit at the moment and that would in a way bode well for the American.

Serena is the player to beat at this year’s Open as the 16 times Grand Slam champion has been virtually unstoppable in 2013 as she has accumulated a 60/4 win/loss record to this point and has also clinched a career best 8 titles in the season. However, she would have to reaffirm her supremacy at the Majors as she was handed a shock defeat in the fourth round of Wimbledon by the German powerhouse Sabine Lisicki and recently she was beaten by the Australian Open conqueror Victoria Azarenka in an absolute classic in the final of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.

It is remarkable to see the changes that have been brought up by her coach Patrick Mouratoglou in her game – Serena appears much fitter, her movement looks really good (precise - particularly to her right hand side that was a vulnerable area for her earlier), her backhand has become much stronger (the cross-court version has got better as she has got more control over it), and she seems to be determined to finish off the task once she is on court that wasn’t the case before as she used to be a bit up and down during the course of the matches.   

And, when the 31 year old declares that she is thrilled to be back playing in front of her home crowd, then it means that the rivals will have a tough time trying to figure out the way to overwhelm her as she said: "For me, it's the same - I'm always thinking about the Grand Slams. I'm always thinking about, 'Wow, I can't wait to get to the Open,' or, 'Gosh, I can't wait to go to Australia.' There are different memories that pop up in my mind. The Open, I just see Arthur Ashe Stadium. In Australia I see, you know, the gym for some reason. Strange, but... each Slam has different memories. It's very special."

Conversely, her adversary Schiavone is known for her excellent stroke-play with her backhand being the highlight package of her elegant shots. The 33 year old veteran though is not the force she once was on the WTA Tour as she reached her career best ranking of No.4 in January 2011 after winning the French Open in 2010 and by getting through to the quarters of the US Open the same year and the last 8 stage of the Aussie Open the following year.

But, the Milan resident who relies on quick footwork and brilliant timing is still proficient enough to manufacture the kind of tennis that would most definitely enthrall the crowd anywhere on the planet as she can simply produce any stroke that is there in a tennis textbook – a deceptive drop-shot, crisp volleys at the net, sharp-angled slices, over-spinning lobs and many more.

It would be the 8th instance when Serena and Schiavone will be meeting each other in their professional careers with the reigning champion having a size-able 5-2 lead in the head-to-head thus far. The last time they came face-to-face against one another was in Toronto a few weeks ago and on that occasion Williams breezed past Schiavone in just 75 minutes.

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