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Schiavone, Li play for French Open title

June 3, 2011 at 7:12 AM   |   Comments

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PARIS, June 3 (UPI) -- Veteran players Francesca Schiavone and Li Na, playing a sport where youth is usually an advantage, have battled their way to the French Open final.

Schiavone, the tournament's No. 5 seed, will be defending her 2010 French Open title against Li, seeded sixth, in Saturday's women's singles final.

They have split their previous four matches, with their most recent pairing coming in the third round of last year's French Open when Schiavone won 6-4, 6-2.

A year ago Schiavone hadn't even played in a Grand Slam semifinal but she broke through at Roland Garros and won the French Open, setting off a joyful celebration in which she climbed into the stands to enjoy the moment with family and friends.

This year she's trying to be the first 30-year-old to win a Grand Slam event since Martina Navratilova won at Wimbledon in 1990 at age 33 and the first woman to win back-to-back French Open championships since Justine Henin won three straight in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

"Saturday I will go on the court enjoying, breathing, saying thanks for everything, because for me to arrive in the final is fantastic," Schiavone said on the WTA Web site.

"And then I will play tennis. Sometimes we forget to play tennis -- we go inside ourselves and break everything and we're upset. But it's just tennis. It's fantastic."

Li, 29, is playing in her second major final. She dropped the title match at the Australian Open earlier this year, losing in three sets to Kim Clijsters. Li is the first Asian player to reach a Grand Slam final.

"It's another good experience for my whole career," Li said. "I think I've proven a little bit for Chinese tennis … I just need one more step and my dream will come true."

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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