Age just a number for French Open champ Schiavone

Grand slam success came late for Francesca Schiavone but the Italian always knew she had the heart of a champion.

Last Updated: Oct 26, 2010, 00:00 AM IST

Doha: Grand slam success came late for Francesca Schiavone but the Italian always knew she had the heart of a champion.

Schiavone, at 29, became the second oldest player to win a maiden grand slam title when she captured the French Open in June.

While Caroline Wozniacki’s rise to number one in the world having never won a major has drawn criticism, Schiavone believes the Dane will lift one next year.

She also said it takes much more than just talent to land a major. “To win a grand slam you have to be a big person inside,” Schiavone told a news conference at the WTA Championships on Monday, touching her heart.

“A champion inside is not just tennis -- forehand and backhand. I’m always trying to go over my limits in everything I do.”

“I work always with passion in tennis, with the heart,” added Schiavone. “I work a lot on myself. That’s the key about me and my tennis.”

While most players her age are thinking, ‘What’s next?’, she is thinking, ‘Who’s next?’. For the 30-year-old there is no such thing as a late bloomer.

DIFFERENT TIME

“I don’t think there is early or late. Everybody has a different time to explode or do a good job,” said Schiavone.

“It was my time at 29, maybe for another one it is at 20. But I don’t think it’s late. Maybe for you, yes, but not for me. ‘I don’t look young?’, she asked a reporter with a smile.

Schiavone’s love for the game remains as strong as ever. She lives to please crowds and her maverick style endears her to them.

Her success at Roland Garros has also translated into new-found fame at home.

“People in the street, I walk in Italy and they say, ‘Hello, are you Francesca? You look smaller than on television’.

“I say, ‘No don’t tell me this. I work hours and hours to become big’,” she laughs, her words complimented by an array of gestures and expressions.

Schiavone opens her campaign in Doha on Tuesday against Australian Sam Stosur, the player she beat to win the French Open title.

Bureau Report