Tramlines

Li and Schiavone to rescue women’s French Open

Tramlines

View gallery

.

Just
four months after making history when she became the first Chinese player to
reach a Grand Slam final, Li Na is at it again.

This
time she is the first Chinese player to reach a French Open final
, two short
days after becoming the first Chinese player to reach a French Open semi-final.

A
quick caveat to that stat should be raised; Chinese American Michael Chang, who
was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, won the title in 1989. Born to
Taiwanese parents Chang was nonetheless American by nationality.

Way
back in 2004, Li was the first Chinese player to win a WTA Tour event when she
triumphed at Guangzhou.

Zheng
Jie quickly followed suit and in 2005 the duo comprised the first all-Chinese final
on the WTA Tour in Estoril, albeit only briefly as Li was forced to withdraw
injured.

Li
then became the first Chinese-player to reach the semi-finals of a Grand Slam,
at Wimbledon in 2006 before Zheng repeated the
trick two years later, also at the All England Club.

View gallery

.
And
now, on Saturday, the genial Li will be bidding to become the first Asian
player to win a Grand Slam.

But
first, she will have to go through defending champion and irrepressible Italian
Francesca Schiavone.

Like
Li, Schiavone also won her semi-final in straight sets and has also made
history for her country when she became the first Italian woman to win a Grand
Slam singles title, 12 months ago at Roland Garros.

Much
probably will be made of the fact that this is the oldest women's Grand Slam final
since Martina Navratilova, then aged 30, played Chris Evert, aged 32, in the French
Open final in 1986.

Schiavone
is 30 (although she will be 31 later this month) and Li is 29.

Tramlines
can appreciate what this says about the younger players on the WTA Tour and
agrees, it does not exactly hint at a thrilling future for the Tour.

But
this, in TL's opinion, is to miss the point.

Saturday's
final between Schiavone and Li promises to be one of the most exciting women's
Grand Slam finals for some time.

Neither
player can really be described as a favourite; they are seeded five and six
respectively.

Neither
player will be playing their first Grand Slam final so the understandable nerves
that that occasion produces should not be prese

View gallery

.
nt in either of the players.

Neither
has much to lose, or to put it another way, both have a brilliant opportunity
to secure a Grand Slam title and so, hopefully, will come out unshackled and
going for their shots right from the start.

And unlike in the Australian Open earlier this year, Li is not coming up against someone vastly more experienced than her (in Kim Clijsters), she is coming up against someone roughly as experienced as her; with the obviously difference between Schiavone having one Slam under her belt heading into her second final, while Li will simply be heading into her second Slam final.

Yes,
these two are Tour veterans and it would be nice to see some of the younger
players coming through to win Grand Slam titles.

But
let's not underestimate Schiavone and Li's achievement in the process. They could rescue
this tournament from being instantly forgettable and in turn secure a classic
end to things.

+++++++

To
be honest Tramlines is still smarting a little from the battering it received
on the first Monday of Roland Garros after daring to comment on Roger Federer's
demeanour in recent weeks.

Tramlines
is actually a fan of Federer, and can't see how anyone can fail to be given how
much he's raised the level of men's tennis in recent years, but still feels
that he has been a little irritable of late.

But
that's what landed TL in trouble 10 days ago.

And
so in a bid to level things out and to prove how much of a gentleman Federer
is: here's a video of the gallant world number three coming to the aid of a fan
who fell out of the stands on Court Philippe Chatrier whilst trying to get the
Swiss players autograph.

The Swiss
legend was coming off court after winning his quarter-final match against Gael
Monfils when the eager fan thrust her hat out to be signed.

But though
her zeal was admirable her grasp of the laws of physics was less so - and she
ended up toppling clean out of her seat and onto the clay surface.

Luckily, she
was more surprised than hurt - and that surprise increased tenfold when the
16-times Grand Slam champion sprung over to check that she was okay.

Fed then gave
the girl a hug, and posed for a picture with his arm around her shoulders. Which sure beats getting a marker pen squiggle on a hat that was already such a dark colour that it would never have shown up properly in any case.

Watch the video:

View Comments