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Forza Francesca: ‘La Lionessa’ vows to fight on in Hong Kong Open

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The first Italian woman to win a Grand Slam singles title, FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE is heading to Asia for the inaugural Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open at Victoria Park from September 8-14.

 

Now 34, the clay-court specialist with the one-handed backhand made her name by beating Sam Stosur to win the French Open in 2010 before again reaching the Roland Garros final the following year, losing to Li Na.

 

In a long career, Schiavone has reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open, helped Italy win the Fed Cup three times (2006, 2009, 2010) and reached World No. 4 in early 2011. The victories have tailed off in recent times, but the fiery Italian nicknamed La Lionessa by compatriots has vowed to fight on “as long as I am healthy and feel good on court”.

 

What are your thoughts on competing in Hong Kong?

It will be my first time. Some of my friends went on holiday to Hong Kong and said that I absolutely have to go there. I hope the fans are also excited about this event and that they enjoy my tennis and personality. I know Hong Kong has a good reputation for fashion, so I’m also looking forward to shopping!

 

What are your goals for this year?

To improve my ranking and start next year in a good position to play my best tennis.

 

Who is your favourite player?

My favourite players are Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. My favourite retired players are Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. If I could play against one person, it would be Federer.

 

Schiavone beat Sam Stosur to win the 2010 French Open and become the first Italian woman to win a Grand Slam singles title.

Schiavone beat Sam Stosur to win the 2010 French Open and become the first Italian woman to win a Grand Slam singles title.

Which is your favourite tournament?

I have many beautiful memories from the French Open. Playing in Italy is always special because I feel so at home. Clay is my favourite surface. I also like Asia a lot; its traditions and the culture. I like to meet people and share their way of life.

 

How would you describe your playing style?

I am a fighter. I love to give shots with different spins on the ball and to play crosscourt with different angles.

 

How do you compare the young generation like Eugenie Bouchard with players in their 30s like yourself, Serena Williams and Li Na?

I can see that the new generation players are coming and they are strong both in tennis and on the physical side. It is great to see us players, who are not so young anymore, to be able to compete against girls 10 years younger than us. It is a fantastic challenge for ourselves and for the fans.

 

Schiavone, 34, will compete in the inaugural Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open from September 8-14. Photos: AFP.

Schiavone, 34, will compete in the inaugural Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open from September 8-14.

You’ve been on the tour for a long time. What keeps you motivated?

My passion and love for this sport. Being on the tennis court makes me feel so good.

 

Who do you travel with?

I always travel with a coach and sometimes a physical trainer and physiotherapist.

 

Is retirement on the cards any time soon?

Of course it could be, but as long as I am healthy and feel good on court, I will keep playing and enjoying this amazing sport.

 

Any training tips for tennis fans?

Work hard, find your personal style and enjoy what you’re doing.

 

Any tips for aspiring tennis players looking to turn pro?

Believe in yourself and work hard; dream and fight for your dreams.

 

Source: Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open (www.hongkongtennisopen.com); Editing by SportAsia

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