No. 6 Li Na def. Francesca Schiavone, 6-4 7-6(0). The French Open 2011 hosted a historic women's final at Roland Garros Saturday, with defending first-time champ Schiavone facing the first Chinese player to ever reach the finals in Paris. Li also holds the distinction of being the first player from her homeland to play in any Grand Slam final, having fallen to Kim Clijsters this past January in Melbourne, but a newer, loftier record is hers today.
After a close but decisive win in the first set, the second may as well have been decided by one shot: Schiavone, down a set, had her first chance to break serve, and Li whipped a 100 mph ace past her. From there, the psychic momentum belonged to the whirling dervish in the jaunty visor, though the score didn't always reflect it. Schiavone battled Li to a tiebreaker, the two trading service games throughout the second. The defending champ visibly picked up speed at 5-all, amid audible chants for Li and announcers calling the match a "dogfight."
The dogfight got emotional at first deuce in that eleventh game, with Schiavone up in the umpire's face over a line call that could have taken her to set point. She lost the game hitting it into the net on the very next point, and the ladies were onto a tiebreaker for a tie or the title. From there, the Italian came decidedly unglued.
Schiavone lost the first three points of the tiebreak on errors, two of them unforced. Li hammered a two-handed, over-the-shoulder backhand past her for the fourth point. Schiavone hit a drop shot into the net to give up the fifth point, hit another into the net for six, and handed Li championship point on a long ball. All due credit to her for somehow managing to look gracious at the net.
None of this is to take anything away from Li's performance. She's won five of her seven 2011 Roland Garros matches in straight sets. Her run through the field at Melbourne proved she can compete even when the top-seeded players don't faceplant. Her continued success will broaden the international appeal of the sport at home and abroad -- and speaking of which, stay tuned for her on-court interviews, which are already becoming the stuff of legend.