The Italian Almanac

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Francesca Schiavone

Francesca Schiavone

Francesca Schiavone said she is still struggling to take in her achievement after becoming the first Italian woman to win a grand slam by beating Samantha Stosur in French Open final.

"It hasn't sunk in how popular I've become," the 29-year-old told Italian radio. "I kissed, ate and took home that red clay," she added, referring to the Roland Garros dirt she lay face down on after completing a 6-4 7-6 win over Australia's Stosur. The surprise victory puts Schiavone in the top ten for the first time in her career, lifting her from 17th to sixth after the world rankings were updated.

Although a leading part of the Italian team that won the Fed Cup last year and in 2006 with her great spirit and determined, scurrying style, she had never been widely considered as the sort of player who could contend for a grand slam title. But she showed the class of a true champion in Paris.

She dropped just one set in the tournament and played intelligent tennis, mixing strong ground strokes with drop shots and brave charges to the net to surprise more fancied opponents, including Danish third seed Caroline Wozniacki in the quarters. She also did her homework, identifying Stosur's backhand as her weakness before giving it a torrid time in the final.

As a result she is now setting her sights in the next grand slam on the calendar, Wimbledon, which starts later this month. "You experience unique emotions when you win and so it's good to make a habit of it," she said. "I don't see why I shouldn't try again at Wimbledon". Schiavone's heroics in Paris have caught the imagination of the Italian public, winning her the nickname "Queen of France", and of the rest of the nation's sporting world.