2011 French Open – Nick’s Picks – Women’s Singles Finals
Na Li (CHN) vs. Francesca Schiavone (ITA)
Li moved into the second straight Grand Slam finals with an excellent win over Maria Sharapova in the semis. She is playing with unshakeable confidence and her game looks as good as ever. If she could win this tournament she would become the first Chinese player to ever win the French Open. She is already the first Asian man or woman to reach a Grand Slam final, but I have a feeling this time she wants to take home the trophy!
Schiavone is fantastic to watch on clay. She came up with another big win over Marion Bartoli to reach the finals of the French Open for the second consecutive year. She has now won 13 straight matches at Roland Garros and she is looking to become the first woman who is 30 or older to win a Grand Slam since Martina Navratilova won Wimbledon in 1990! She is great for the sport and the French fans love her!
This is the fifth meeting between these two, and they have split their previous four matches. Their one meeting on clay came at the French Open last year and Schiavone won that in straight sets. Let’s break down how this match…
Forehand - On the forehand side, Schiavone hits with more spin because of her semi-western grip, but when she is inside the baseline she will not drop the racket heard under the ball. She will keep it more on an even plane. Li will stand very close to the baseline with a more conventional grip (strong eastern to weak semi-western). Her forehand will clear the net by a very small margin (18-24″). This shot gives her a small margin of error, but will provide her many outright winners and also reduces the amount of time her opponents have to run down the ball. Pay attention: Schiavone will run around her backhand more often than Li to hit more forehands!
Backhand – Schiavone has a one-handed backhand with a strong semi-western grip. She can rip it, hit high looping spin balls, hit a drop shot and she can hit a biting slice. Li hits a two-handed backhand with very conventional grips: bottom hand continental to a weak eastern and top hand eastern forehand grip. She has moderate racket-head speed and she uses her top hand to generate most of the speed. She can drive or hit with a little spin. Once again, her margin of error is small, but she doesn’t have the versatility of shots that Schiavone does.
Serve - Schiavone hits the majority of her serves with high bouncing spin and also will slip in a few low slice serves. Li’s serve is very consistent as she places the ball at all times using spin for control and consistency. She will, at times, hit a harder serve with a little slice but less spin.
Movement – Both girls are fantastic movers, but in very different ways. Li will stand close to the baseline and move laterally, but always staying very low which gives her power and lift from her legs. Schiavone will be all over the court, but she also does a very good job of keeping low.
Variety – Li is very steady, sticking with the basics and once in a while she will hit a slice or a drop shot. Schiavone is a typical Italian, she will put on a show out there and will do a little of everything. She will chip and charge, use a biting slice, hit drop shots, angles and will also sneak in and hit a few volleys when needed.
Nick’s Pick – Schiavone will hit all sorts of shots, trying to get Li out of her comfort zone. She will jerk Li all over the court and probably hit some high bouncing spin moon balls which will force Li back off the baseline. On the other side, Li will take the ball early and make Schiavone move all over the court hitting behind her as well. The split second Schiavone hits a short defensive ball, Li will come forward into the court and go for it.
In a Championship match, nerves and pressure will also play a big role. Watch out for tentative second serves and also when the pressure is on will they go for their shots or will they pray that their opponent makes a mistake!
This is going to be one heck of a match and I cannot wait to watch. I think you have to give a slight edge to Schiavone because she has been here before and she is the defending champion, but the way Li is hitting the ball she is going to be tough to beat.
I’ve broken down both ladies’ games and now I want to hear from you! Who do you think is going to win?