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Schiavone beats Stosur for French title

PARIS - For more than a decade as a professional tennis player, and nearly 30 years as a person, Francesca Schiavone waited and worked to reach this particular moment on this particular court, and there was no way she was going to conceal her excitement about arriving.

As Schiavone moved closer, point by point, to winning the French Open title, and to giving Italy its first female champion at a Grand Slam tournament, she let everyone watching share in her sheer joy.

At 2-all in the second-set tiebreaker of yesterday's taut final against Samantha Stosur of Australia, Schiavone hit a forehand volley winner and raised a fist, well aware she was four points from victory.

Schiavone next smacked a volley to end a nine-stroke exchange and jumped to celebrate. Three points away. A forehand winner followed, and Schiavone screamed. Two points away. She slid through the red clay and, lunging, poked yet another volley winner. She yelled again, hopping in place. One point away.

And then, after delivering a spin-laden backhand from the baseline, Schiavone watched the ball glance harmlessly off Stosur's racket frame. Zero points away.

The 17th-seeded Schiavone covered her face with both hands, then dropped to the court and smeared her white outfit with rust-colored clay, relishing the 6-4, 7-6 (2) win over the No. 7-seeded Stosur and the many, little steps that brought her there, right where she always believed she could be.

Schiavone curled over and kissed the court, giving thanks to "this clay, this beautiful tournament and this arena," as she put it later, for giving her "this opportunity and all the emotion that I am living."

She turns 30 this month, making her the oldest woman since 1969 to win her first Grand Slam championship. On Monday, Schiavone will rise to a career-best No. 6 in the WTA rankings, making her the oldest woman since 1998 to make her top-10 debut.

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