French Open women’s champion Francesca Schiavone is acutely aware that many first time winners of Roland Garros have subsequently never gone anywhere close to adding to their list of accomplishments with names such as Iva Majoli, Andres Gomez and Gaston Gaudio immediately springing to mind.

But despite the fact she celebrates her 30th birthday on the third day of Wimbledon, Schiavone is insistent she can relocate her clay court game on grass and exceed her performance of last year when unseeded she reached the quarter finals, beating seeds such as former finalist Marion Bartoli, Virginie Razzano and Aleksandra Wozniak along the way.
 
In the wake of Saturday’s victory the Italian press heaped understandable praise in their heroine who became the nation’s first Grand Slam women’s champion. "Historic victory," Gazzetta Sportiva said across its front page. "Mythical," said Corriere dello Sport.
 
As Italy’s football team prepare to defend their World Cup title in South Africa, even coach Marcello Lippi hailed Schiavone. “From now on she will be our symbol,” he said.

He added: “Four years ago I said that we’d be inspired by the Olympic gold medal of the ’Setterosa’ (the Italian female water polo team).

“Today it’s Schiavone who encourages us and I see her as a symbol of Italy, with her fight, her passion, her class and her heart. From now on she will be the image of our World Cup.”
 
Adriano Panatta, the last Italian to win a major title, at the French Open in 1976, added his congratulations. “I think she won by her intelligence, her tactics and her heart against her muscular tennis based on physical strength,” he said. “I am really happy that an Italian woman has won Roland Garros because that’s what we were missing.”
 
Schiavone will now take a week off before first stepping foot on grass at the AEGON International at Eastbourne. Then the following week she will be seeded inside the top eight at Wimbledon.
 
“I’m curious now and I’m excited if I think about Wimbledon,” said Schiavone. “ Last year I did good, but I arrived at the quarter-final tight and I couldn’t play so good. The grass is something special. It’s something you have to feel. You have to practice and work on it.”
 
Nerves proved her downfall in last year’s quarter final against Elena Dementieva but her confidence has been boosted beyond all recognition by her triumph at Roland Garros. "You have to believe in yourself, to feel something inside," she said.  "You keep dreaming. It's not like I dream of becoming Angelina Jolie. That's impossible. But I keep dreaming about goals that are within my reach, that I can achieve by working hard every day."



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