Here we go again, two players pretty much no one was talking about in the lead-up to the French Open are now in the final of the claycourt Grand Slam – Francesca Schiavone and Li Na. Schiavone was mentioned here and there, mostly as last year's surprise champion, while Li, we can safely say, was totally neglected. Anyway, Schiavone beat Marion Bartoli 6-3 6-3 in today's semifinal (yes, Bartoli reached the final four, which just adds to the fact that predictions are useless) and Li defeated Maria Sharapova, the most favored player to win the tournament.
Before anything I'd like to repeat that Schiavone and Li are playing the final of the French Open and Caroline Wozniacki, Kim Clijsters, Vera Zvonareva, Victoria Azarenka, Samantha Stosur, Jelena Jankovic, Petra Kvitova, Julia Goerges are all gone. Many of them long gone!
The world No.5 Schiavone made a big statement by reaching the final again. Even if the Italian doesn't win the remaining match, she has proved that her last year's success wasn't just an incidence, and even though people will always argue and mention the circumstances or whatever, I think the 30-year-old Schiavone has a solid proof that she can rock. Her quarterfinal against Anastasia Pavlyuchekova this week was one of best showcases for Schiavone's physical and mental capabilities.
Every now and then the seventh-ranked Li becomes "the first Chinese player who ________". In January she played the Australian Open final as the first Chinese Grand Slam finalist in women's singles, and now, just a day after becoming the first Chinese to reach the singles semifinals at Roland Garros, she's become the first Chinese to play the finals, by ousting three-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova 6-4 7-5. Li made twice more winners than the Russian (24 to 12), five less unforced errors (23 to 28), seven double faults less (3 to 10), and hit one ace to her opponent's zero.
Schiavone and Li have a 2-2 career head-to-head record. Their last and only match on clay was at last year's Roland Garros and Schiavone won 6-4 6-2 in the third round. Although, as unpredictable as women's tennis is, this statistical point doesn't mean much. (photos: chascow, Stephane Martinache)