Francesca Schiavone advanced to her second consecutive French Open final after outplaying Marion Bartoli 6-3, 6-3 Thursday.
It was a match of contrasting styles. Bartoli’s double-handed groundstrokes and solid baseline game are reminiscent of Monica Seles’ game, while Francesca Schiavone, the defending French Open champion, uses a variety of spins and angles to keep her opponent off balance.
Against Bartoli, Schiavone’s ability to alternate between hitting high-bouncing topspin shots and low-bouncing slice backhands, as well as her defensive skills, made the difference.
Bartoli, the 11th-seeded Frenchwoman, and Schiavone started the match with a high standard of play.
Both players held serve until Schiavone earned the break at 4-3 with an inside-out forehand return that Bartoli couldn’t run down.
Schiavone, the fifth-ranked Italian, proved her mettle by serving out the set. She played an effective set, hitting 13 winners to seven unforced errors, compared to Bartoli’s five winners and six unforced errors.
Both players won nearly 80 percent of their first-serve points, while Schiavone fared better on her second serve, winning 67 percent of those points, compared to her opponent’s 56 percent.
The ease at which the Italian won her second-serve points may be the reason why Bartoli wasn’t able to earn a single break-point opportunity.
The Frenchwoman responded well after losing the first set, racing to a 2-0 lead in the second set.
Yet she couldn’t extend her lead on her serve, despite some luck. Serving at 30-40, Bartoli hit a down-the-line backhand that clipped the let cord and dribbled over the net.
Schiavone still earned the break by hitting a series of low-bouncing slice backhands that forced an error from her opponent.
As the set progressed, the Italian continued to hit heavy-topspin shots to bring the ball out of Bartoli’s hitting zone to force short balls that she could control the point with.
The Italian finished the match with a break of serve at love; an anti-climactic end to a match that started competitively.
Schiavone limited Bartoli to winning less than 50 percent of her first-serve points for the match, while she won 63 percent of those points.
She finished with 22 winners to 16 unforced errors, compared to Bartoli’s 11 winners to 18 unforced errors.
Her opponent in the final is Li Na, today’s victor against Maria Sharapova. They have an even 2-2 record against each other, although Schiavone won their last match at the 2010 French Open in straight sets.
If she wins that match, she will be the sixth woman in the open era to win consecutive French Open titles and the first Italian player—man or woman—to do so since Nicola Pietrangeli won in 1959 and 1960.