Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Best of 2010: Grazie Right Back at You
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Best of 2010: Grazie Right Back at You 12/24/2010 - 11:34 AM

I know what you’re thinking: How can a straight-set match, in which one of the players failed to rise to anything near her best, be No. 1 for 2010? And it’s true, the French Open women’s final didn’t have the surreal grandeur of Isner-Mahut, and it wasn’t a display of back-and-forth shot-making and drama along the lines of Nadal-Murray in London. But there are many reasons to watch tennis, and just as many reasons to love it. I can only say that this was my favorite match of the year, the one I enjoyed watching the most, and the one that, to my surprise, meant the most to me.

I had a friend in high school who owned a tape of the 1983 French final, won by Yannick Noah. If we wanted to feel better on a dreary weekend afternoon, we would put on the final set, where Noah whips himself and the crowd into near hysteria. I could see myself in the future doing the same thing with the second-set tiebreaker of this final, where Francesca Schiavone seizes the moment and seems to take flight above the court, before ending the match laid out flat on it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the tiebreaker anywhere on YouTube. How is that possible? The best I could do was this brief but sweet set of Italian clips. Hopefully, it’s enough to bring back the inspiration of that afternoon. (There's also this crowd film, which looks as much like an assassination as a tennis match.)

I watched Schiavone-Stosur at my tennis club in Brooklyn. I was taping it at home, but I stood with about 20 other members through the tiebreaker anyway. How could you turn away? With each point, the cheers and appreciative laughter around the TV grew—Schiavone had us, even those of us who had never heard her name before. When she won the final point, everyone raised their arms, as if one of our New York home teams had just won a world championship. (Of course, there’s a fair amount of Italian spoken and heard in my section of Brooklyn, which didn’t hurt.)

Maybe it’s OK that there are no points to analyze here. It’s Christmas Eve for many of us, not exactly a time for Xs and Os. But I’ll try to re-create the day by cribbing from what I wrote the day after the final:

One moment can stand in for the entire match, and the way Schiavone went after it. Up 5-2 in the second-set tiebreaker, she was two points from winning what she had to believe, as a 29-year-old who had never cracked the Top 10, would be her only shot at a major. Or at least I thought she had to believe this. I’d been waiting, through the second set and particularly through the tiebreaker that ended it, for her to remember this fact and tighten up accordingly. But she didn't tighten up. Instead, she loosened up and played her most assertive tennis in the breaker.

At 5-2, I thought now, now, finally, the weight of the moment would land on Schiavone’s racquet and make it just a little harder to swing so freely. From a tactical perspective, it might even have made sense to play a little safer against an erratic Sam Stosur; there’s no shame in inching across the finish line. But that wasn’t how it was going to be for Francesca—no backing in, no inching across the line today. On the next point, she took an even bigger cut on her backhand return, ran around and drilled a forehand into the corner, and finished it with a sweet and difficult shoe-top backhand volley that was angled perfectly. From the start, Schiavone had taken Stosur’s biggest weapon, her serve, and managed to get on top of it and attack it like no one else had all tournament. From the start, she had taken this match; there was no other way for her to end it.

No, actually, there was. Along with that 5-2 point, I’ll remember one line from her classic, classy acceptance speech. “I’ve always watched every final of this tournament and I know what the big champions say. I want to thank everybody.” Even after her win, Schiavone was humble and honest enough to differentiate herself from the “big champions.” In one sense, she was right; she’s not Serena Williams or Steffi Graf or Justine Henin. But she’s also wrong. Schiavone showed that, in the right time and place, there can be a big champion in any of us. She showed, by winning the way she did, that opportunities can be taken. Hers is a win I’m going to want to remember.

Six months later, I remember. Six months later, it still feels good. Grazie to you, Francesca.


 
68
Comments
 

Posted by ata08 12/24/2010 at 11:59 AM

real words that meant the most.
a wonderful way to remember the year.

thanks

Posted by Master Ace 12/24/2010 at 12:04 PM

Samantha won the most clay matches which included winning her only title for 2010 at Charleston. Samantha came into the final by defeating Justine(who won the last 3 times she played), Serena(8-6 3rd set after saving a match point) and Jelena(golden opportunity to obtain her maiden Slam) with her serve and her forehand playing a major role. Francesca came into this final showing Caroline how to play clay court tennis in the QF and in the SF, Elena had to retire with injury, which caused her to miss Wimbledon. This match was set up for Samantha to win the title. However, the circumstances to me was similar to 2008 when Dinara defeated Maria, Elena and Svetlana to make the final after winning Berlin a few weeks earlier defeating Justine and Serena in the process. However, Dinara could not get the job done as Ana, who rallied from a break deficit in the SF to defeat Jelena, won the title in straight sets. Also, Dinara was the best clay courter in 2009 losing only 2 matches but they were at the final at Stuttgart and French Open to Svetlana. With Francesca win, this was the 3rd year in a row where the best player on clay could not win the French Open.

Posted by Holds2Love 12/24/2010 at 12:37 PM

Steve,
You are bound to get static from WTA bashers and accusations of political correctness, but I truly enjoyed the matches you cited and I respect your decision to choose YOUR #1 match based on this criterion:
"But there are many reasons to watch tennis, and just as many reasons to love it. I can only say that this was my favorite match of the year, the one I enjoyed watching the most, and the one that, to my surprise, meant the most to me."
Who can argue with this? I suspect we'll find out. ;-) But I believe your intent is not to carve this list in stone and assert its objective truth, but to put your subjective (albeit well-informed) list out there, as a point of departure for discussion. Let the games begin. :) For my part, Schiavone's joy in engaging in competition, in victory... your (and my and many others) joy in watching... what's not to love?

Another well-written piece, and I must quote one more line: "(There's also this crowd film, which looks as much like an assassination as a tennis match.)" wasn't sure where you were going with this, but after viewing the link, I get it -- clay knoll and all. ;-)

Again... "But there are many reasons to watch tennis, and just as many reasons to love it." I am going to have t-shirts printed.

Grazie a lei, Stefano.

Posted by lovestennisblogs 12/24/2010 at 12:43 PM

definitely the feel-good match of the year!

Posted by Ryan 12/24/2010 at 12:55 PM

Ugh, I slept through this match, and I'm desperate to see it in its entirety!

Posted by FM (Vamos Rafa!!!!) 12/24/2010 at 01:31 PM

Steve,

Agree with you. Actually this has been the match that I watched the most times (thanks to the on demand function of my cable TV network 'cause I didn't record this match), even more than Rafa's slam victory matches. A very impressive one and turn me into a fan of Franny's all court tennis.

Thanks and merry X'mas.

Posted by Soderling's Scowl 12/24/2010 at 01:41 PM

Look Steve,

it was nice that Francesca won and now she can buy enough tomato sauce and spaghetti to sustain her and her cartoon-like image for years to come and thats nice and all but....DID YOU REALLY JUST SAY THIS WAS THE BEST MATCH OF 2010?!!! ARE YOU FUC**NG KIDDING ME?!

Sorry Steve, but uhh NO. I know this is just your opinion, but opinions can be so bizarrely irrational that they can actually be wrong. Such is the case now. Schiavone played O.k., I saw the match, but the real story(and everyone knows this) is that SCHIAVONE JUST SEIZED THE MOMENT WHEN SHE SAW THAT STOSUR WAS PRETTY MUCH HAVING A COMPLETE PANIC ATTACK!

Stosur threw the match away, duhh. And that doesnt make for the best of anything, it just demonstrates the mediocrity of the WTA.

Posted by Yolita 12/24/2010 at 01:54 PM

Fabulous post, Steve. Perfect for Christmas Eve! Such a feel-good match! Completely memorable!

Merry Christmas to you and to all your readers. :)

Posted by VE 12/24/2010 at 02:15 PM

Steve,

Another well written post, thank you.

I would say that this wouldn't be my match of the year, or even among them, but I would rank it as the 2nd biggest story of the year, just behind Rafa's career slam edging out the Serbian Davis Cup win.

At the end of the day, the question here is do we really remember the matches or the storylines? There are exceptions, the '08 and '09 Wimbledon finals for example, but when I think of the matches I think I remember it's less the serves and groundies, it's the moments, the stories.

I remember watching Novotna choke away Wimbledon, Seles making the final of the '95 Open and accepting her runner-up trophy in the rain, Agassi lifting the Coupe Des Mousquetaires as if it were a boulder being lifted from his shoulders in '99 and the day prior when a woman who looks just like Andre's wife Stefanie would school a petulant teenage champion on that same court. I remember Marat Safin playing nearly perfect tennis to edge the Mighty Fed in Melbourne and Rafa sprawled out on the lawns of the All England Club, his third title match being the charm.

Looking back at 2010, I won't remember a ton about the WTA season, I frankly can't recall a single final in any detail after the Aussie swing, but I'll remember the classy Italian having the moment of her career.

A controversial choice, for sure, but if we all agreed, what would be the point of writing.

Posted by Soderling's Scowl 12/24/2010 at 02:18 PM

To all this I say: BAH HUMBUG!

I wish I could enjoy this with everyone, since it IS christmas Eve, but I feel far more inclined to be negative and unpleasant.

But hey, I can't help it! I'm not a real person or tangible object, i'm just a scowl on Robin Soderling's face.

Posted by Ivanovic's Itch 12/24/2010 at 02:27 PM

Oh please @Soderling's Scowl. You must remember the meaning of Christmas!

Cue the piano:

Christmas time is a time for joy
For every tennis playing girl and boy
Love and laughter fills the air
I walk by and all the dude's stare

Santa clause is coming soon
and he'll give gifts to all the tennis dudes
he'll give Murray a reason to smile
he'll give Nadal better shorts in a little while
he'll give Soderling a reason to be nice
he'll give Berdych some pleasant advice (about being mentally tougher)

THE END :) Merry Christmas everyone! And happy hanukkah and kwanza and Jegpeloly!

Posted by Soderling's Scowl 12/24/2010 at 02:28 PM

I despised that

Posted by AB 12/24/2010 at 02:32 PM

Mele Kalikimaka, Steve and mahalo for your 2010 faves!

I enjoyed every minute of the French Open this year and this final was sweet.

Happy Holidays and thank you for providing this space.

Posted by Jorge 12/24/2010 at 02:44 PM

The complete tie-break can be seen here: http://www.livetennis.it/post/49308/il-trionfo-di-francesca-schiavone-al-roland-garros-video

Love this game too.

Posted by Ali* 12/24/2010 at 02:45 PM

Steve

A nice choice - you said in an earlier post that the best 3 or 4 matches last year were better than all of this years, but I agree that Francesca winning was a nice moment. Would love to see Sam win RG this year for another feel good story.

Merry Xmas all

Posted by YodaSD 12/24/2010 at 02:52 PM

Looks like someone's just put this highlight reel up on youtube, includes the tie breaker.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jcyPnuFHMk

Thanks for all the great posts Steve, and Ho Ho Ho everyone.


Posted by MZK 12/24/2010 at 03:30 PM

Bravissimo, Steve. I grew a bit concerned when Isner-Mahut clocked in at No 2. "Surely he's not going to overlook the women's FO entirely?" I thought maybe you would give in to the bigger names and pick one of the Fed Slam upsets this summer, and while Sod saved set point in the 3rd in tremendous fashion, and Berdych did similarly to claw out of 0-40 in the fourth, I would have felt a bit let down to see a Fed-centric match in the top spot.

Instead you not only went with my own pick, but you justified it well and demonstrated why you're easily my favorite tennis writer. I was actually a bit disgruntled to see Schiavone in the final; I would have preferred either of her last two victims, Wozniacki or Dementieva. I also thought she'd be easy prey for Stosur, who admittedly had already done more than enough to deserve the title. Instead I found myself cheering for Francesca as she rose to the occasion in the way we would want anyone to do so in that situation. While Stosur did not manage to summon her very best as in previous rounds, she did her part to ensure the high-quality final I still fondly recall and for which I'm glad I did get out of bed grudgingly. ;)

Happy holidays to all.

Posted by Nick 12/24/2010 at 04:51 PM

Terrific choice.

Posted by babolatclijstersfan 12/24/2010 at 04:56 PM

I completely agree with the decision to put Schiavone at No. 1 match of the year and the Isner-Mahut match at No. 2. Isner said over and over again in the aftermath of that match that while he was thrilled to be connected with such a groundbreaking contest, he didn't want his career to be defined solely by the longest match of all time. For Schiavone, as great as it was seeing her in the U. S. quarters three months after her Roland Garros victory, the FO is going to be the highlight, defining moment of her career. Here's hoping for the holidays that Isner (or some American - Fish, Querrey, Harrison, Sock, Christina McHale, whoever) will get his real moment too.

Posted by Andrew 12/24/2010 at 05:21 PM

Good call.

I was pulling for Stosur to win. But I didn't have a lot of emotional chips riding on a Stosur victory, and like many others I was just delighted to see someone take her chance. Not, as you write, by inching over the finish line - "It's 5-2 don't make silly errors, hit it down the center of the court, just don't screw it up now." But by going for her shots. Somewhere Jean Van Der Velde was standing and applauding.

Going over the ten matches, I don't think there's a single one that you'd beg should be put in a time capsule to show what tennis was like at the end of the first decade of the twenty first century. A lot of good scraps, but no outstanding matches. May your collection in 2011 have two or more ties which make us hold our breaths and tell each other "Damn, that's the real stuff."

Posted by tennyrunners 12/24/2010 at 05:35 PM

This is great. I have a lot of matches taped from 2011, this is the only one I watched twice. I think just knowing how much it meant to this lady makes it the match of the year. Plus she is really fun to watch play.

Posted by tennyrunners 12/24/2010 at 05:41 PM

Another part of what made this match so great was that NEITHER player had ever been in a Grand Slam final before. It made it all the more intriguing.

Posted by CWATC 12/24/2010 at 05:41 PM

Great pick.

I had tears in my eyes at the end of this match, the only time I can remember that's happened to me while watching tennis.

Posted by noleisthebest 12/24/2010 at 05:55 PM

Steve,
what an incurable romantic you are!

Posted by Dan 12/24/2010 at 05:59 PM

Steve,
Good series this of the best of 2010.
My #1: Nadal-Djokovic, US Open final.

Posted by awwo 12/24/2010 at 06:09 PM

i wholeheartedly concur with this as the no. 1 match. Francesca's exuberance was contagious and her play was so beautiful to watch. Net play and angles, instead of the usually boring and endless slugfests that dominate clay court matches.

Posted by Pennettafan 12/24/2010 at 06:56 PM

Fully agree Steve!! The "best" match doesn't necessarily mean the best quality of tennis although, contrary to what a lot of people think, this was a very good match!

Just because Sam lost doesn't mean she played badly, sure, her game wasn't to the level she played in earlier rounds, but she played well enough to have beaten a lot of players that day. Franny was too good on the day, very probably played the best game of her life! How refreshing that was, to see an 'underdog' playing so freely when in sight of the winning line :D

Her reaction at the end and at the presentation ceremony was absolutely fantastic! Here was a player that was so genuinely happy, and possibly slightly in shock, to have done what she did. Such a change from the multi slam winners that, although pleased to have won, often look like they're more relieved that its over!

Also, just like CWATC said, it moved me to tears!! And I've been watching tennis for over 35 years,its the first time thats ever happened!

Posted by susan 12/24/2010 at 07:33 PM

I'm so happy to see this as no. 1!

At the time, I was pulling for Stosur, who is one of my favorite female players. And I found myself pulling for Schiavone. It was an odd sensation, almost subconscious, as if some weird doppelganger had taken over. Finally, I relented and began wholeheartedly rooting for Shiavone. It was unavoidable. How could you not?

Posted by nick 12/24/2010 at 08:49 PM

this was anything but the best match of 2010.

anyway, merry christmas.

Posted by jita65 12/24/2010 at 09:27 PM

Unexpected to find this match at top of the list, just as unexpected it was to find these two players in the FO final. I really enjoyed watching this match, and like Susan said, it was hard not to root for Fran at the end. Both of them played so well throughout FO to get to this point.

Posted by ebh 12/24/2010 at 09:42 PM

????? REALLY?? Come on!

Posted by Helios 12/24/2010 at 09:44 PM

To choose this mach over, say, Isner-Mahut is to show oneself as connoisseur. OK. To choose it over Nadal-Murray is plain showing-off. But this is OK too. But If one add in mix that this is seen as best and Federer-Đoković as sixth there is dilemma. It would appear that this combined express preference for meaning over glow, as well as preference for empathy over quality. Even this is OK at first glance, but to me it does not survive two plain questions. Especially if one is to answer them quickly and from the hart.
If choice is based in emotion, empathy, meaning etc. – where is there at least Roddick-Lu 5-set hart outburst?
Worse, what is meaning of those two playing finale at the first place? For me, not for a second I could not see physique of Stosur and definition of Schiavone. Both expressed more than ever. Nothing to worry about, I will not be boring guest from Tennishasasteroidproblem blog .
Just my two million dollars. Ups, it’s not mine, its theirs…

Posted by Ivo 12/24/2010 at 10:23 PM

Steve surprised me with this choice but I have to say, I like it!
It's a different way of appreciating the sport....i.e. appreciating comprehensively. I too was moved by Schiavone on that day....who wasn't?

Posted by krang 12/24/2010 at 10:31 PM

I AGREE! By far the most exciting match of the year. I felt more engaged watching this match than I have for years. Truly fantastic to see a player go all out to win it and to accept the results. While watching this match, I fell in love with Schiavone :)

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 12/24/2010 at 10:46 PM

Couldn't agree more, Steve. You made the right picks for #1 and #2, in my book.

Posted by Chris 12/24/2010 at 11:31 PM

Great choice! Absolutely the best match of 2010 (or at least the most emotionally satisfying). I'm sorry, but Isner-Mahut was a bore and would have meant nothing to anyone except for the ridiculous score. I think your #2 should have been Nadal-Djokovic in the U.S. Open final. (And can I make a plug for the Nadal-Murray semi at Wimbledon? I thought that was an exceptionally well-played match, even though it was straight sets.)

Posted by Miles2Know1 12/24/2010 at 11:54 PM

Sorry to say that I did not see the match while it was going on and there is a dearth of clips out there. But the result of this match shook me to the tennis core. Definitely the best match of the year.

cheers

Posted by Sam 12/25/2010 at 06:08 AM

Very bad choice for #1

Posted by Maplesugar (at home) 12/25/2010 at 10:40 AM

Interesting choice. I really enjoyed this match and was swept away by Francesca's grit...and, like others, was kind of rooting for Stosur. By the end of the match, I was thrilled at the outcome and totally take by the Italian's charm. She's a delight.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, ALL!

Posted by Kombo 12/25/2010 at 12:34 PM

Eish, really?

Sentimental Favorite - okay, Most Endearing - Fo sho! But "Best Match" - ahellznah.

Merry Christmas!

Posted by Kombo 12/25/2010 at 12:36 PM

Where's Kanye when we need him?! :P

Posted by Kombo 12/25/2010 at 12:41 PM

20/20 hindsight: ATP 2009 was much better than 2010. Aside from WTF Murray/Nadal and USO Fed/Novak, there weren't many matches I'll be rewatching in months or years to come. Contrary to some, I don't rate Nadal/Novak as a great match coz Novak never really looked like winning that match.

Posted by u gotta be shitting me 12/25/2010 at 02:25 PM

i hate women's tennis, but i'll let this one slide since from a glance it appeared to be a men's match.

Posted by Michele 12/25/2010 at 02:53 PM

The only match that brought tears to my eyes. A deserving number one, Steve.
Thanks for this and for another year of fabulous columns and for putting up with all of us and our comments!

Posted by Corrie 12/25/2010 at 04:37 PM

I agree with this choice just as much as I disagreed with including the boring Isner/ Mahut serve fest as #2.

This final was dramatic, hard fought, with fine shot making, a moving, emotional ending and very classy speeches. It may not have made it in a better year for great matches and maybe there were matches that were closer or better played, but this one will stick in the memory for the sheer emotion and bravery of Fran's win - and Sam's gracious stoicism in defeat.

Posted by Kamilah 12/25/2010 at 04:51 PM

I completely understand the choice-Schiavone's swagger and willingness to go out and take the victory is what is sorely lacking in the games of so many young players today so Grazie for a great match Francesca!

Posted by melanie 12/25/2010 at 09:13 PM

Great choice Steve, I was hoping Frannie would win and that she did, she went out and took her chances and playedg magnificantly, she used her brain and deserved this 100%. Personally I think 2009 was a better year for matches with drama, and Verdasco/Nadal and Federer/Nadal at wimby 2008 were my matches of the decade and whilst this match lacked the length of those two matches, it was somehow right up with them.

Well done Frannie - looking forward to the French already!

Posted by Andy 12/26/2010 at 12:04 PM

When Schiavone win ,the photographer put down the camera and shout with crowd. I seem to be affected by their motion because she really did it!
I think why it make me so motivated is that though Schiavone faced Stosur such powerful player, she still tried her best to return every ball and catch every chance.
The 2nd set was change so theatrically. chasing from 5-2 to 6-7. Honestly,at first I thought 2nd set will be Stosur`s.However ,she is out of my imagination. What I can say? Amazingggggggggg~

Posted by Kris 12/26/2010 at 01:31 PM

As far as I'm concerned, the good matches that will stick in my head for years to come are probably your top 3: the Nadal/Murray battles throughout the year, 70-68, and Francie for that nothing-to-lose tiebreak. The last time I felt such genuine joy for a first-time champion was probably when Goran finally won Wimbledon in 2001 and this one will stick with me the same way. I am an Italian American and, while I generally don't think of that with other sports, that part of me did turn me from wanting Stosur to win because she'd beaten Justine, Serena and Jelena in a row to pulling for Francie in the middle of the second set.

It just reaired on Tennis Channel Friday and brought me back. I still don't think Stosur played so badly in the match - although standards may be low thanks to Safina prior and Zvonareva after. The fact is that you can't always bring your A game for the big match and she did fight through it to make a worthy match. I didn't see the AO final (not a fan of Serena or Justine) so for me it was the most compelling GS ladies final in a long time and I was glad two first-timers brought it.

Posted by md 12/26/2010 at 01:52 PM

Best match I saw of the season was in fact a doubles match played at my local club. We were in the semis of inter club league class 4/5 and the match was tied at 3-3 with the doubles being the decider. Our team won the match 7-5 in the final set, after having been a break and match points down. The teams were evenly match and both played extremely well, with very few unforced errors or silly mistakes. It was good hard, sportsman like fare, with honest line calling and applauding of opponents shots. It was also terribly exciting, with only pride and club honour on the line. One of the match points also featured one of the best returns of serve I have ever seen, and was ultimately the shot that won the match. Our opponents thought they had served an ace, it was a big first serve to the backhand and had gone past our team player, who somehow played a blocked slice return with his back to the net. The ball rocketed back and landed a foot inside the baseline curling about 6 inches in from the outer line of the tramline. Our guy afterwards said he had seen the ball very big and knew it was going well in but had no idea how he made the shot.

Anyhow it was a small match, played between a bunch of middle aged guys with their best tennis behind them, but it was unbelievably exciting (for us). Our team was close to tears afterwards, well perhaps a few were shed, all for the love of the game. The gallant losers were crestfallen. My match of the year and it was a privilege to have been able to watch it with about 20 other guys.

Posted by Mr T 12/26/2010 at 01:59 PM

Steve - A great choice - one of the purest moments in sports in the past several years. I also began the match hoping that Stosur would win but the exuberance and the quality of play by Schiavone won me over to her side quickly. And then for her "to seize the day" at the end made it even better.
It is always great to see a player who is not ranked in the top 5, play "in the zone" for the greatest moment of her life.

Posted by Holds2Love 12/26/2010 at 03:58 PM

great story, md. :)

Mr. T: 'It is always great to see a player who is not ranked in the top 5, play "in the zone" for the greatest moment of her life.' Don't know if you've been following the countdown of the top 20 players on the home page, but right now it's at number 7, David Ferrer and Francesca Schiavone. It seems that this area of the rankings is for those players who you know have the ability, but for whatever reason, physical, mental, a combination thereof, can't sustain it over time or elevate it at crucial moments the way the very top players can. But it's still got to take enormous talent and hard work, so as you say, it's great to see it all come together for them at some point.

Posted by Carol (vamos Rafa and Wade, you're my heroes) 12/27/2010 at 08:18 AM

Nice article Steve like always and Marry Christmas!
To me the best match of the year was the WTF Nadal/Murray but it was too long and the next day Rafa suffered it

Posted by cimmerian 12/27/2010 at 01:52 PM

Beautiful choice, Steve. As others have said, this is the match I have re-watched more than any other throughout the year - and not just because of Francesca's emotion and energy. (Though her acceptance speech is among the most purely joyous moments I've witnessed in my entire life.)

Francesca's tennis was a testament to intelligence, strategy, focus, scrappiness, and determination, and those are lessons that any athlete can learn, no matter inherent athletic ability, body size, or other gifts. I'm a three-sport male athlete, and after that match, I scrawled "Schiavone" on the wall as a reminder of how to excel in sport. No other player, male or female, had that level of impact on me in 2010.

I'm also cautiously hopeful that her win will motivate younger players to go a different route than "hit ball hard."

No matter the long-term impact, that amazing afternoon is Paris is worth celebrating as the promise and potential of sport. "Nothing is Impossible," indeed.

Posted by Nichole 12/27/2010 at 06:04 PM

Great choice Steve. My favorite pick as well. I remember the tennis analysts repeating the claim that although it was no lengthy 3-set match, it was one of the best French Open finals in a long time.

Posted by Diane 12/27/2010 at 06:52 PM

It was the match of the year for me, and especially since--when I sat down to watch it--I told someone I thought it was Schiavone's to lose. Once she got that far--working with Barazzutti--I saw her winning in three sets. It was all the more delightful that she won in two.

Posted by Hasheem Sr. 12/27/2010 at 06:52 PM

Steve:

General I do not like your articles and subjects you cover in tennis. This is one of the first time we can again. Most most people are forgetting isn't not over until it's over! I do not believe it was upset. Anybody who loves tennis and watch the game know Schiavone is a excellent and talented player. And if you are in the Final of any Glam Slam you can "PLAY". Schiavone has always had a beautiful games with the ability to beat anyone. She outplayed Stour and she played like a woman who came to play. We all like the upsets, the underdog breaking through and winning. When we look it though is the underdog really an underdog ?

Posted by nightfish 12/27/2010 at 09:26 PM

schiavone was elemental, what a force and a courage that murray and others could learn from

Posted by Sea 12/28/2010 at 09:30 AM

Way to go Steve.

Stick your finger in the eye of those tin-foil hat wearing paranoid conspiracy theorists.

Posted by Jared 12/28/2010 at 02:31 PM

Schiavone's ugly, even for a horse.

I'm always too turned off by her utter lack of feminity to feel any morsel of urge to cheer her on.

She only won because the top ten in women's tennis, well their problems are well documented. Why do they even get the same pay as men anyway?

Posted by Steven 12/28/2010 at 07:42 PM

I too agree that this was an amazing match, albeit for the women' s game only. I wasn't looking forward to the final that much. I was disappointed that jankovic missed her chance, am not a fan of stosur's game, and wasn't that familiar with schiavone, even though she' s been around for a long time. I'm a little ashamed about this last part, since I found her all-around game to be absolutely thrilling in the final. Save Justine, she can hit her backhand with more variety than any of the other women on tour. Her shot selection in coming to the net and her court coverage are also totally mature. The only thing she is missing is a more consistently big serve, and a slightly shorter backswing to have some success on faster surfaces. But Roland garros was perfect for her to develop her tactical schemes. I was very moved by her game and her adventure. (please go to my blog.http://www.stevenzynszajn.com/string-theory/ to see my humorous selection for 2010 match of the year!)

Posted by A Shrimp Boat Decapitated My Cousin 12/28/2010 at 11:59 PM

Best match of the year? Federer/Daveydenko in Australia.

Posted by Angie Roche 12/29/2010 at 02:57 PM

What an amazing final, both women played so well in the natches preceeding this match. Who would have thought a year ago today
that a mature Italian woman called Francesca Schiavione would
win this title.
I have always admired Schavione for her playing ability, intregrity
and humbleness - she is a worthy Grand Slam winner as well as a very decent human
being.
I wish more Grand Slams could produce "unexpected" winners like
the 2010 French Open Woman's and 2004 Wimbledon Woman's Champion -
the wonderful Maria Sharapova and 2006 Wimbledon Woman's Cnampion -
the great Amelie Mauresmo.

Posted by Nam1 12/29/2010 at 03:39 PM

"Schiavone's ugly, even for a horse.

I'm always too turned off by her utter lack of feminity to feel any morsel of urge to cheer her on."

What does this colossally stupid statement have to do with the match or this blog?

The women in the WTA desreve the money just coz' they have to put up with foolish statements and mentality like this one!

Posted by Legoboy 12/30/2010 at 07:11 PM

She's amazing...this match was amazing....and it's grealy appreciated that you give it, its due respect!

Such a great moment for Woman's tennis this year!

Posted by Larry in the Silicon 12/30/2010 at 07:43 PM

The nice thing about Schiavone is her willingness to enjoy the game, to work variety into her game (a means of keeping it interesting) and to enjoy the physicality of it all. Tennis is a full-contact sport in terms of body-and-mind commitment if you are to play your best. When I watch a player such as Francesca, or an Arnie Clement, a Melzer (when engaged), or the King of Court Fun, Santoro, then it reminds me why I started to play and watch the game. It's sure easy to forget after an injury, an annoying practice session, a multitude of double faults into a glaring sun or a bout of sportsmanship.

I happened upon the tiebreak of the Safin-Edberg Senior match in the Grand Cayman or Alligator Cay or some place about a week ago. It was great to see them enjoying the tennis. It is rare that a regular tour pro, with all the travel, pressure, distractions and inevitable ego-billowing, actually takes time to enjoy the game. Schiavone does.

Posted by TennisFan2 12/31/2010 at 09:06 AM

Great choice for #1 Steve. Loved everything about Schiavone's "seize the moment" win.

Posted by Avec Double Cordage 12/31/2010 at 12:21 PM

intresting pick, surely the Djokovic-Federer Semifinal at the US Open was better from a shotmaking, quality and tension point of view but there's good reasons and well explained ones why you took the Schiavone Stosur match instead, it's a final after all.

I would go with 1st Djo-Fed USO semi (cuz of quality of play and importance for Federer) then 2nd would be Clem, Llo-Tro, Zim doubles in Davis Cup final (cuz of crowd and importance, for alomst an entire country), 3rd Sch-Sto women's RG final (cuz of the reasons you mentioned), 4th Isn-Mah at Wimbledon (cuz of the record length), 5th Nad-Mur at the masters WTF (cuz of the quality shotmaking and the tightness), and somehow I feel like there was a good match at the AUSO as well just can't remember who played perhaps it was the quarter final where Tsonga beat Djokovic in 5 sets

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