’10 French champ Schiavone retires, shifts focus to coaching
NEW YORK (AP) — There’s a part of 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone that would love to continue competing.
After several months of debating it, she knew her place in her sport is now as a coach.
Schiavone announced her retirement at age 38 during a news conference at the U.S. Open on Wednesday, saying she accomplished her two biggest goals as a player — winning a title at Roland Garros and being ranked in the top 10 — and now wants to try to help someone else become good enough to earn a Grand Slam trophy.
“I arrive @ this decision to say goodbye to the tennis with my heart,” Schiavone said. “Because my head, when I arrive here, says, ‘Please go to the court, fight, because I can beat many other players.’ But my heart says that I am @ peace like this, that I am very happy about my career, my life, and everything.”
Schiavone — it’s pronounced Skee-ah-VOH-nay — really came out of nowhere at the French Open eight years ago, beating Sam Stosur 6-4, 7-6 (2) in the final to become the first woman from Italy to win a major singles championship. Afterward, she kissed the court’s red clay.
Seeded only 17th, she defeated three top-10 opponents along the way, plus No. 11 Li Na in a third-round match Schiavone considers “the most beautiful match of that Slam.”
She had never been past the quarterfinals at 38 previous Grand Slam appearances. Just shy of her 30th birthday at the time, she was the oldest woman since 1969 to win her first major trophy. That title propelled her to a career-best No. 6 in the WTA rankings, making her the oldest woman since 1998 to make her top-10 debut.
“I like to speak about Roland Garros,” Schiavone said, “but some memories will always stay just for me.”
Her game was as vibrant as her personality — one marked by a smooth single-handed backhand and seemingly reckless forays to the net, the other by her back-and-forths with Italian media that were by turns philosophical, witty and sarcastic, words often delivered with a wink and a smile.
When she mentioned Wednesday that she has started working in Miami with players of various ages, from younger than 10 to as old as 75, she teased reporters: “So you’re more than welcome if you want a lesson.”
Schiavone retires with eight singles titles, a career-high ranking of No. 4, three Fed Cup titles for Italy, and more than $11 million in career prize money. She also reached No. 8 in doubles.
One other spot in the record book: Schiavone won the longest Grand Slam women’s singles match, edging Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 1-6, 16-14 in 4 hours, 44 minutes in the fourth round of the 2011 Australian Open. When that match came up Wednesday, she asked, “How did I manage to play for that long?”
Her ranking has fallen to 454th; she has a 3-9 record in 2018.
Schiavone’s final tour-level match came in July at Gstaad, Switzerland, an opening-round loss.
The surface? Fittingly, clay. The opponent? Fittingly, Stosur.
And now Schiavone is ready to move on to the next phase.
“I look sad, but I am happy, too,” she said. “Tonight, I will drink a good Champagne, for sure.”