MARRAKECH, Morocco - She's one of the greatest clay court players on the tour and now she's a winner on the dirt again - Francesca Schiavone won the Grand Prix SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem on Sunday, winning a deceptively tough straight-setter against Lourdes Domínguez Lino in the final.
Although she saved three set points in her first set of the week, the No.6-seeded Schiavone didn't lose a single set in four matches en route to the final, and she kept that pattern going on the day, defeating Domínguez Lino, 61 63 - but nine of the 16 games went to at least one deuce, and she had to rally from 3-1 down to win the second set. After an hour and 34 minutes and one last grinding point, Domínguez Lino sent one last forehand long to send Schiavone to her first WTA title of the year.
Schiavone took home the sixth WTA title of her career, her first five coming at Bad Gastein in 2007, Moscow in 2009, Barcelona and the French Open in 2010 and, most recently, Strasbourg last May.
"This was a great week for me after a long, very difficult period," Schiavone said. "I think my two toughest matches of the week were my first match against Martic, a very talented young player, and of course today against Lourdes. I played a really complete game today. It's never easy to play her.
"To win here is a great start to the clay court season for me and inspires me to keep working hard."
After her semifinal win on Saturday, Schiavone was asked whether she's getting back to her former greatness - greatness that once saw her ranked as high as No.4 in the world. "Yeah, why not?" she said. "I've been working really hard and am coming back from some difficult times, so why not!
"I'm just enjoying playing for these crowds and giving the fans the best that I can give."
Schiavone also had some kind words for the tournament in the trophy presentation. "I want to give many thanks to everyone who helped make this tournament happen. It's the first year in Marrakech, and the first year is always difficult, but the tournament was fantastic and I felt like I was at home.
"And of course to the Tournament Director, Mr. Arazi, it was an honor for me to be here with him."
Domínguez Lino is now 2-1 in WTA finals. She won her first two finals in Bogotá, in 2006 and 2011.
The Spanish veteran was asked whether she will return to Marrakech next year. "Of course," she said. "It was my first time in Marrakech and I am really pleased with my result. All credit to Francesca."