Tramlines

Li a popular champion at Roland Garros

Tramlines

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Li Na has made history yet again,
picking up her maiden Grand Slam title to secure the very first major singles win
for China,
either in the men's or women's game.

It's a phrase that Tramlines has
become accustomed to typing over the past few months, ever since the Chinese
player reached her maiden Grand Slam final in Australia back in February.

But it was not just that she lifted
the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen that was impressive on Saturday; it was the manner
in which she did it.

A hugely popular champion at Roland
Garros last year, Francesca Schiavone had the lion's share of support from the
partisan French crowd.

And yet Li came firing out of the
block firing on all cylinders and had, by the end of the match, managed to
wrestle not only the court but also a sizeable proportion of the crowd from the
Italian.

Tramlines won't mention any names, but
a lot of players, both in the men's and women's games, would do well to look at
Li Na and see where they have been going wrong.

Comfortably outplayed by Kim Clijsters
in her first Grand Slam final at Melbourne
four months ago, Li went away, changed her coach, changed her attitude and
bounced back stronger almost immediately.

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The genial Chinesewoman got rid of her
husband Jiang Shan as coach and instead hired Michael Mortensen, a man whose
calmness in the players' box at Roland Garros undoubtedly had an important
influence on Li, especially when she was forced to deal with a spirited
comeback from Schiavone.

The difference in Li's demeanour in Paris was
notable. Instead of taking a frenzied first set, as had happened in Melbourne,
Li looked collected and played within herself, refusing to let Schiavone
dictate any of the early rallies and simply dismissing the tricky slice the
Italian frequently puts on the ball.

Only once did Li threaten to let her
emotions bubble over, when Schiavone broke back in the eight game of the second
set, and she quickly reigned them in and went on to serve twice to stay in the
set before whitewashing the tie-break.

But it would be remiss of Tramlines to
only talk about Li when discussing the past fortnight in Paris.

The colourful Schiavone has made a
welcome return to the latter stages of tournaments, in TL's opinion.

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The 30-year-old Milanese had not made
a final since winning the French Open 12 months ago but it would appear that
returning to Paris
was like flicking a switch for Schiavone, whose impressive strength of character
and never-say-die attitude got her out of more than one tricky moment in the
past couple of days.

But in the end, the Italian fell just
short of retaining her title at Roland Garros.

Barring a slightly below par
first serve ratio, Schiavone did not play badly in the final; she was simply not allowed to play by an
opponent in better form that her, and the Italian's love-affair with Paris can remain intact
after another great tournament.

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Tomorrow's men's final between world
number one Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer is a bit of a blast from the past, the
two men not having met in a Grand Slam final for over two years, with the Australian
Open in 2009 being their last major final duel.

Nadal, short on confidence since being
beaten in four Masters finals by Novak Djokovic, seems to have bounced back to
form and will being going for a record-equalling sixth French Open title.

Roger Federer on the other hand is
also resurgent as he reaches his first Grand Slam final since winning the
Australian Open in 2010.

He will be going for a record-breaking
17th Grand Slam title, and just his second French Open crown.

Not too much to play for then!

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