Wozniacki learning to love clay again thanks to Schiavone

A legend down at Roland Garros, Francesca Schiavone joined the Wozniacki team for the week in South Carolina.

Caroline Wozniacki during Roland-Garros 2018©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Last September Francesca Schiavone called time on an encapsulating 20-year career at the US Open.

The gregarious Italian wiped away the tears during her retirement announcement and declared: "My dream is to come back and win a Grand Slam as a coach,” said the 2010 Roland Garros champion in New York.

“I wish I didn’t want to do it, but I was born to stay on the court and, we say, ‘to be dirty’ on the court. This is the dirty part of this sport."

Schiavone already back on the tennis scene

Well, very few would have called that Schiavone is already back on the tennis scene in the corner of a fellow Grand Slam winner.

Last week in Charleston on the green har-tru clay courts, Caroline Wozniacki surged into the final with four commanding victories, before Madison Keys held the trophy aloft with a 7-6(5) 6-3 triumph.

The 28-year-old had recruited Schiavone into her coaching camp, eager to extract the subtle intricacies of clay court tennis from the two-time finalist on Court Philippe Chatrier.

“Clay has not always been my favourite surface. I’m just trying to add a little bit of a different mindset, just kind of getting a few little tips,” said Wozniacki, hailing Schiavone’s tactical offerings having reached her first clay final since Bastad in 2017.

Francesca Schiavone during Roland-Garros 2018©Philippe Montigny/FFT

“I think it’s great, she knows the clay so well. For me, it’s just good to get a few pointers and a few tactical things, stuff like that. So here we are.

“I think sometimes it’s just, she’s like, ‘Okay, well try this maybe.’ Or, ‘That can make a difference when you get a deep ball or a short ball’ or, ‘This is how you can cover the net maybe slightly better.’

“There’s a few things that I always want to do better, so those are just the kind of things, like the little things that can make a difference.”

A pretty simple process

The world No.12 revealed it was a pretty simple process to recruit Schiavone for the Charleston campaign.

“So, Francesca lives in Miami part-time, and I actually saw her right by where I live and said, ‘Hey, why don’t you come to my practice? You know, give me a few tips on the clay.’ And she was like, sure I’d love to,” Wozniacki told reporters in Charleston.

“And then we just had one practice, and I said, ‘So what are your plans next week?’ She was like, ‘I’m free if you need me’ so I said, “Why don’t you come to Charleston with me?”


Could the immediate success of Schiavone’s input inspire the ever-ambitious Wozniacki to work with the Italian for a longer stint this season?

“I think we’ll sit down after this tournament and just see how we feel,” said the 2018 Australian Open champion, who stated that her coach, father Piotr Wozniacki, was more involved with Schiavone’s snippets of strategy wisdom.

“It’s important for me so that I don’t get too much information, so that I get one voice.”

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"I kind of knew what to do"

The Dane, a two-time quarter-finalist at Roland Garros in 2010 and 2017, is determined to approach the challenge of the clay with renewed vigour and optimism.

“I think probably if you look back ten years ago, I was probably playing just as well on the clay that I do now,” added Wozniacki, who grew up training on outdoor clay courts. “If you look back five years ago, I would say I’ve stepped it up.

Caroline Wozniacki running during practice in Indian Wells 2019©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

“I kind of knew what to do, and I think I just lost kind of that pattern a little bit once we started playing on hard courts so much. I think now I’m just starting to realise what I need to do, and I can’t always do it, but I at least have the right path and I can see what I need to work towards.

“When I play that way, I win a lot of matches and I can play at a very high level on this surface.”

Raring to go for the road to Roland Garros, it will be intriguing to see whether the charge in Charleston will ignite a coaching collaboration between Wozniacki and Schiavone en route to Paris.