From LastWordOnTennis, by Filippo Colombo.
Francesca Schiavone’s 6-1 6-2 loss in the opening round of the US Open was her third consecutive first round loss at a Grand Slam. All of them have come in straight sets, against Svetlana Kuznetsova in New York, Simona Halep at Wimbledon and Kiki Mladenovic at Roland Garros. Moreover, earlier this year, she lost in the second qualifying round at the Australian Open against French veteran Virginie Razzano. In Melbourne, Schiavone was attempting to become the player with the most back to back appearances at slams, beating Ai Sugiyama’s record. She was denied a wild card and felt the pressure, failing to obtain what she had dreamed of.
Schiavone’s last win at a Grand Slam happened in Paris last year. She beat Kuznetsova 10-8 in the decider after a crazy match, showing tremendous fight. Roland Garros is a Slam which Francesca Schiavone is clearly attached to. She won that major in 2010 – becoming the first Italian to win a Grand Slam. She reached the final the following year, when Li Na denied her the title defence. Therefore, it is clearly frustrating for a former champion, not only not being able to win Slam matches anymore, but also the difficulty in putting up a fight. All of her major losses since Wimbledon 2015 – where she won a set against Sara Errani – came in easy straight sets.
Age is just a number
Schiavone was born in 1980, with maths clearly stating that she is now 36. On the WTA tour, only Venus Williams is older than the Italian – by just six days! At the age of 36, retirement must be a considerable option. Perhaps not if you’re still in the top ten in the rankings as the American is, but definitely if you struggle to stay in the top #100.
The majority of journalists seemed quite sure she would quit after breaking Sugiyama’s record, and when she failed they were ready to say farewell to Francesca Schiavone. The Italian threw the delusion away though, playing tennis once again and in February she even won a WTA tournament in Rio de Janeiro. Her retirement was then expected after the Olympics. During Wimbledon she had started working as an pundit for Italian television together with her friend and former tennis player Flavia Pennetta. However, the Italian veteran withdrew from the Olympics, citing the fact that she preferred to improve her ranking by playing minor tournaments during those weeks, and she came to New York determined to do well. The draw was not friendly to Schiavone, since she faced ninth seed Kuznetsova. The match showed an abysmal difference between the two.
Francesca Schiavone should not retire despite her early grand slam losses
Thus, the question now seems quite easy. Why hasn’t Francesca Schiavone retired yet? Further still, should she retire given the inferiority of her game compared to most of her opponents? The answer is plain as day: absolutely not!
Schiavone’s game is a joy to watch. Her one-handed backhand is a rarity in today’s game, and is utterly gorgeous. Her intelligence, her drop shots, her net approaches and her volleys are bijoux. What’s more, Francesca Schiavone loves to play tennis. No matter what the score is, if she hits a stunning winner you’ll see her laughing and crediting herself. Regardless of how she’s playing, she’s always trying to fight to win one more point or to stay one more minute on court. She does not seem to care a lot about her ranking, and she accepts, with great humility, losses against players that she used to own during her brilliant years. This attitude is amazing.
After her loss to Kuznetsova in New York, she told Italian reporters that she was very upset with the way she played, mainly because she had been working hard during preparation. At the age of 36, after more than 16 years of competing, she’s still trying to improve. This is phenomenal.
Therefore Francesca Schiavone should not retire. The way she plays and her on-court attitude are an example for many youngsters who dream of a tennis career. The WTA would certainly miss her a lot if she decides to give up at the end of this year.