Trailblazing Schiavone calls time on career

Italy’s first female Grand Slam winner and Roland-Garros champion announces retirement

 - Michael Beattie

Francesca Schiavone, the 2010 Roland-Garros champion and first Italian woman to win a Grand Slam singles title, has announced her retirement from tennis at the age of 38.

The former world No.4, who contested 70 majors including 18 consecutive appearances at Roland-Garros since 2001, said the decision to call time on her 20-year career was made with her heart, not her head, which still tells her to get out on court and compete. “But my heart say that I am in peace like this, that I am very happy about my career, my life, and everything.

“When I was 18 years old, I had two dreams. The first one was to win Roland-Garros, and the second I was to become top 10 in the world. I accomplished that. So I’m very, very happy and lucky that, as we say in Italia, ‘it’s done. This part is done.’”

“Some memories from Roland-Garros will always stay just for me“

Milan native Schiavone was a trailblazer for Italian tennis, a three-time Olympian and three-time Fed Cup champion in 2006, 2009 and 2010. After losing her first eight WTA Tour finals, she claimed her first of eight titles at Bad Gastein in 2007 – a trophy haul that includes her feted run to the Roland-Garros title in 2010.

Seeded No.17, Schiavone defeated fellow seeds Li Na, Maria Kirilenko, Caroline Wozniacki, Elena Dementieva, and Samantha Stosur to lift the Coupe-Suzanne-Lenglen eight years ago, returning to the final a year later only for Li Na to deny her a second title. A quarter-finalist at all four majors, she remains the last woman to win a Grand Slam title playing with a one-handed backhand.

“I like to speak about Roland-Garros, but some memories will always stay just for me,” Schiavone said at a press conference at the US Open. “It was a big present for me. I would say forever thanks.”

She also reached the 2008 Women’s Doubles final with Casey Dellacqua, one of 16 tour-level doubles finals she reached in her career, winning seven titles and peaking at No.8 in the rankings in 2007.


“I have new dreams“

Schiavone had declared that 2017 would be her final year on the WTA Tour, but “inspired by Roger, Serena and Venus,” and having won what would prove to be her final title in Bogota in April, she backtracked on that decision in December. Her final Grand Slam appearance came at Roland-Garros, where she battled through qualifying to set up a first-round showdown with Slovakia’s Viktoria Kuzmova, who edged a 7-6(2) 7-6(2) victory.

Her final appearance in Paris sparked fresh thoughts of calling it a career. “Then I spent some months to think about, to be sure, to feel good with myself and happy,” she said. “I look sad, but I am happy, too. Tonight I will drink a good Champagne, for sure.”

She’s not done with tennis yet, however – Schiavone added that she has already begun coaching and mentoring players: “I can say that it's totally different, but there is a part that is a passion that I feel for the sport that brings me to the court and to share all that I know to some guys and girls that want to learn.

“After 20 years of career and life, I have new dreams. The heart I think needs dreams every day of your life. My new dream is to come here with a player and to be in a Grand Slam as a coach. It would be a fantastic emotion for me, for sure, to help some players to reach them goals.”

Nevertheless, her old competitive fire still burns. Asked if she could face any player in any Grand Slam final one last time, Schiavone had no doubt: “Serena. Against Serena,” she answered. “Serena, red clay – so I think I have a little bit more chance to win.”