With her 2010 French Open triumph, Francesca Schiavone became the first Italian woman to win a Grand Slam singles title. The 29-year-old, who turns 30 in a few weeks, turned pro way back in 1998, but had to wait nine long years for her first WTA title. Along the way, she lost a series of Tour finals before clinching her maiden trophy in Bad Gastein, Austria in 2007.

Run up to the top

The current year was a good one for the Italian even before her sensational victory in Paris over the favoured Australian Samantha Stosur. Schiavone won at Barcelona in the run up to the French Open, persisting with her single-handed backhand slices and awaiting the opponent's errors patiently from the baseline. In Paris, where she had reached the quarterfinal in 2001, Schiavone adhered to similar tactics, despatching 11th-seeded Li Na and 30th-seeded Maria Kirilenko on her way to the last eight and then accounting for third-ranked Caroline Wozniacki to storm into the semifinal.

In the semifinal, the Italian, seeded 17th in the draw, led the comely Elena Dementieva by a set when the Russian retired with a torn calf muscle, handing Schiavone her first Grand Slam final, where Samantha Stosur awaited her. That Stosur had beaten Schiavone in the first round at the Roland Garros in 2009 and had also overrun names such as Justine Henin, Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic in her path to the final in 2010 made her a firm favourite.

But Schiavone had other plans. She wrapped up the first set 6-4 and then contended with heavy slugging from the back court to emerge a 7-2 winner in the second-set tie break. The verdict made her the third Italian, after men players Nicola Pietrangeli and Adriano Panata, to win a major singles crown. Sinking to the ground after her victory, the 29-year-old rolled about on the red clay in what was a genuine display of emotion. “To kiss the ground for me is to thank this clay,” she said later, “this beautiful tournament and this arena.” She also had a word of comfort for Stosur, “You are young. You will win this one day.”

Recognition

The spoils of victory continued for Schiavone. She had a court-side telephonic conversation with Italy's president, Giorgio Napolitano, and accepted a purse of £ 877,000, which she said she'd use to “extend her house”. Along with the tidy pay packet, the number six ranking came her way, making her the second Italian woman in the top ten after Flavia Pennetta in 2009.

Fact file

Nationality: Italian

Date of birth: June 23, 1980

Height: 5 ft 5 ½ inch

Career prize money: U.S. $6,395,986

Career record (singles): 436-296

Number of titles: 4

Highest singles ranking: (June 7, 2010)

Highest doubles ranking: 8 (February 12, 2007)

Best Grand Slam results:

Australian Open: 4R (2006, 2010)

French Open: W (2010)

Wimbledon: QF (2009)

U.S. Open: QF (2003)

Interesting fact: Enjoys writing and relaxes by driving fast in her car.