STRASBOURG, France - Francesca Schiavone completed a renaissance at the Internationaux de Strasbourg this week, not just reaching her first WTA final since last year's French Open, but - by beating Alizé Cornet in straight sets - winning her first WTA title since the French Open two years ago.
Schiavone was seeded No.2 in Strasbourg, but with some dismal numbers on the year coming in - 2-7 on clay, 8-14 overall - she certainly didn't seem to be one of the favorites. The Italian talked about her feelings earlier in the week.
"I haven't played my best for a while," she commented. "When I go home and go out to dinner, people say I'm sad. I say, 'I keep losing first round. Should I be happy?' Now they are writing for me to keep going and winning more."
Her luck turned around in a big way this past week - Schiavone came out firing, losing just nine games in her first three rounds, then after a close first set cruised past Sloane Stephens in the semifinals, 75 61. Up next was another player undergoing a revial - Cornet, a former World No.11, came in ranked No.83 in the world (and was as low as No.117 in the world in February).
But Schiavone had always matched up well with Cornet, winning their last six meetings, and this match was no different, as the Italian was just that much better on the bigger points and got past the Frenchwoman, 64 64 - she has now won their last seven meetings, and four in a row in straight sets.
"In this tournament, in the most important moments, I was there. It has been a long time since I've felt that," Schiavone said after the final. "It's a great feeling and I want to keep going this way. I'm happy again. I'm feeling the sensation of fighting and feeling the pain, and really enjoying my game again."
Schiavone now has five WTA titles, at Bad Gastein in 2007, Moscow in 2009, Barcelona and Roland Garros in 2010 and now Strasbourg in 2012.
Cornet is now 1-3 in WTA finals, though there is reason to celebrate, as it was her first since 2008. "Right now I'm disappointed, but Francesca was playing well the whole week, not even losing a set," Cornet said. "And my tennis is improving and coming back again. It was only positives for me this week, and now I hope I can recover and have a good tournament at Roland Garros.
"I love Strasbourg. I love coming to this tournament every year. And this year it was ecologic, which I really liked. This week was a big success."
"She has improved a lot in the last year," Schiavone said of Cornet. "I saw her playing in Stuttgart and she was fighting a lot, and hopefully now she will have much more confidence and will see how to get back to the high level."
The doubles final was played earlier, with No.2 seeds Olga Govortsova and Klaudia Jans-Ignacik defeating No.1 seeds Natalie Grandin and Vladimira Uhlirova to win their first WTA title together, 67(4) 63 103. Govortsova won her eighth WTA doubles title while Jans-Ignacik collected her second.