The women’s championship at Roland Garros will go to the winner of Saturday’s match between defending champion and #5 seed Francesca Schiavone and #7 seed Na Li. Both women dispatched their semifinal opponents in straight sets.
Li and Schiavone have split four career meetings, but last year’s French Open was the only time the two have played each other on clay. Schiavone defeated Li 6-4, 6-2 in the third round en route to her only career grand slam. While the only Italian woman to win a major has made two French Open finals in a row, China’s highest-ever ranked player has now advanced to the last two grand slam finals, after losing the final of this year’s Australian Open to Kim Clijsters.
There are a lot of similarities between these two players, and that is probably why they are each 2-2 against each other. Neither Li nor Schiavone are tall players, standing at 5’7″ and 5’5″, respectively. Both players have a pretty solid offensive game given their lack of height or weight, but both players make their livings by staying in shape and being incredibly consistent. The same cannot be said for many of the players that have been defeated by the two finalists, such as Sharapova, Azarenka or Kvitova, to name a few. All three of those top ten seeds fell victim to Na Li, who has had, in my opinion, a tougher road to the final than her defending champion counterpart. Another comparison between Li and Schiavone is their delayed ascent in the women’s game. Schia turns 31 years old in a few weeks, while Li is 29. Both women were pretty much off the radar before 2010 as far as major contention goes. While 29 and 28 may not seem too old to jump onto the grand slam shortlist for the first time, remember that the two women who get the most grief and have somewhat been written off for never yet winning a major, Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka, are a whopping 20 and 21 years old today. Perhaps not gaining top 10 rankings at an early age helped to keep the pressure off of Li and Schiavone, who are each the best players in the history of their nations. The funny thing is, so are Wozniacki and Azarenka.
This is another giant occasion for each player, but the edge has to go to Schiavone based on the fact that she is the defending champion, and that their only clay court matchup was a breeze for her. But don’t be surprised one bit if this match goes the distance, because Na Li is extremely consistent and is usually only beaten by a power player who is in the zone, which doesn’t really describe Schia, or a player that is simply more consistent than Li is, which might describe Schia. It should be a great final, and really could go either way. I’ll take Francesca Schiavone in three sets.