Monday, April 17, 2017

No wild card, nessun problema!

2010 French Open champion and all-around tennis legend Francesca Schiavone, playing her last year of professional tennis (we think), asked for a wild card into the main draw of the Italian Open. Sounds reasonable, given all that she has done for Italian tennis, but her request was denied. So she took one into the Claro Open Colsanitas in Bogota, and proceeded to win the event.

Just another "Schia moment" in the 36-year-old Italian's remarkable, if circuitous, career. Going into the Bogota event, Schiavone was ranked number 168 in the world. She's now number 104, which means she has a chance to qualify for the main draw at Roland Garros. If she can raise her ranking, it will help. But even if it stays where it is, or drops a bit, she still has a chance.

Schiavone's win in Columbia wasn't an easy one. She had to knock out three seeds, including top seed Kiki Bertens. The Italian star did have some luck in the final when her opponent Laura Arruabarrena, injured her leg during the second set. Schiavone's run in Bogota gave her her eighth WTA singles title and her 600th career match victory.

It took Schiavone a while to crack the code; she was the runner-up in eight events before she figured out how to go home with the big trophy. Her 2010 French Open victory was one of my very favorite big wins in my decades-long history of watching women's tennis, and her performance in that final was exquisite. She would also make a run to the 2011 French Open final, but would be stopped by Li Na, who claimed her first major on a surface no one could have predicted.

(The Italian Open, by the way, gave wild cards to Maria Sharapova and Sara Errani, and I have no problem at all with those choices. It's just unfortunate that Schiavone got left out.)

The tennis gods were very active over the weekend. Not only did Schiavone win Bogota, but 17-year-old qualifier Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic won the inaugural even in Biel, and her run was quite impressive. Vondrousova (who spent much of last year injured), took out the likes of Annika Beck, top seed Barbora Strycova, Kristyna Pliskova, and--in the final--Anett Kontaviet. Since she had to go through qualifying, Vondrousova played a total of eight matches in order to get her trophy.

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