Schiavone 'happy and ready' at French Open

BY foxsports • May 22, 2011

Two years ago, Francesca Schiavone left the French Open after a first-round loss. Last year, she knelt down and kissed the clay to celebrate departing as the champion, Italy's first woman to win a Grand Slam title - and, just shy of 30, the oldest woman since 1969 to win a major trophy.

Schiavone returns Monday to the site of her greatest professional triumph, Court Philippe Chatrier, to play her first-round match at this year's French Open against Melanie Oudin of the United States.

When steps back on that court, Schiavone said Sunday, she imagines she'll be flooded with ''a lot of emotions and beautiful memories.''

Her run in Paris in 2010 forever changed Schiavone as a person and player, she said.

It also left her wanting more.

''I made my mark in some ways at this tournament and this city - and maybe even a bit in the world. I'm very proud of that,'' Schiavone said. ''At the same time, I'm back at Roland Garros wanting to write another page in the history books, wanting to feel my best and to experience the joys I can feel playing tennis.''

In sum, she added: ''I'm happy and ready.''

An Italian reporter asked Schiavone whether it might be better to put what happened last year in the past, in order to focus on this year's tournament.

She shook her head.

''I shouldn't try to forget Paris,'' Schiavone said. ''Paris is something I hold in my heart and that helps me as an experience. I must be thankful for what happened, and start a new year, a new (French Open), drawing on the old and adding something new in there. It's a mix I'll try to pull off.''

There have been ups and downs this season for Schiavone, who is 17-12 with no titles and is seeded fifth at Roland Garros.

Still, Schiavone senses that opponents view her differently thanks to her major title, particularly when they player her on her best surface.

''Definitely, on clay, they know I won in Paris. They know I get very good results and that I have skill on clay. So they worry about me,'' she said. ''But that's normal. If I see Serena (Williams) at Wimbledon, I think, 'Oh, wow, now I've got to deal with a 200 kph (120 mph) serve.'''

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TRIBUTE: Some French players wore black ribbons on their shirts during first-round matches Sunday at Roland Garros in memory of Stephane Vidal, the fiance of French player Virginie Razzano. Vidal died of a brain tumor at age 32 last Monday.

Razzano's doubles partner, Alize Cornet, had her friends on her mind while beating Renata Voracova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-2.

''I thought about this when there was too much tension on the court today,'' Cornet said. ''I thought about Stephane and Virginie and about what they went through. I thought I was lucky to be here and realized all the stress on my shoulders was nothing compared to what happened to them.''

Cornet will wear the black ribbon throughout the tournament.

''I will dedicate all my wins to him,'' Cornet said, ''because he is someone I really loved.''

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GOOD MORNING: Marc Gicquel, a Frenchman ranked 130th who lost in French Open qualifying, woke up Sunday morning and learned he was entered in the Grand Slam tournament's main draw.

That's because former No. 1 and two-time major champion Lleyton Hewitt withdrew only hours before the start of action Sunday, citing a left ankle injury.

''I didn't know anything about Hewitt,'' Gicquel said. ''I was just waiting.''

He reached the fourth round at the 2006 U.S. Open, but now has lost in the first round at his last four major tournaments.

Relegated lately to playing in tennis' minor leagues, Gicquel got a chance to return to one its big stages Sunday - Court Suzanne Lenglen at the French Open - if only briefly. Albert Montanes of Spain beat him 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

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AP Sports Writer Samuel Petrequin contributed to this report.


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