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By Richard Lucas
Photo Credit PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images


Li Na celebrates during a match at the 2011 French Open. (June 4, 2011) Learning from her experience in the Australian Open final, World No. 7 Li Na held tough at key moments late in the second set to defeat defending champion, Francesca Schiavone, 6-4, 7-6 (0).

It was apparent early on that Li came in with more confidence than she did in her first grand slam final, being the aggressor throughout the match. Her deep, penetrating groundstrokes coupled with excellent serving appeared to fluster the defending champion, as she was forced to stay behind the baseline and mishit a number of backhands.

The first break opportunity came in the very first game when Li had a break point that the defending champion fought off, creating an error from the Li forehand, known as the more volatile wing for the Chinese-born player.

Li earned the one and only break of the first set to go up 3-2 when her deep groundstrokes forced an error from the Schiavone forehand. The rest of the set followed with both players holding serve until another loose forehand from Schiavone handed the set to Li.

It looked like the match could be over quickly when Li came out firing in the second set, setting up three break points and converting on her third when Schiavone commited another of her 17 unforced errors. Schiavone came out the next game, earning for first break chance, which was quickly erased with the last of Li's three aces.

Li would hold in that game and earn another break point chance which would have allowed her to go up 4-1. After missing a relatively easy forehand into the net, Schiavone would hold for 2-3.

After holding her own serve, Li would earn yet another break chance against Schiavone in the next game, but the crafty Italian would force another error from Li and hold her serve.

Li Na BackhandIt looked as if nerves began to creep into the Li forehand and some increased pressure from Schiavone would allow her to break and level the match at 4-4.

Things began to look as if a third set was imminent as Schiavone held with ease and Li began to spray a few more balls from the forehand side. Both players continued to hold all the way to deuce with Li serving at 5-6 in an attempt to force a tiebreak.

An incredibly angled crosscourt forehand from Li created some crowd noise as Schiavone thought for sure the ball was out and she was looking at a set point. The umpire checked the mark and called the ball in, earning Li an opportunity to hold serve for 6-6.

After that key point, things began to spiral downhill quickly for the Italian, who would not win a point for the rest of the match. A combination of two winners from Li and two unforced errors from Schiavone resulted in a lopsided 7-0 score in the tiebreak.

Known for her all-court game, Schiavone was stuck far behind the baseline for much of the match, and her trips into court proved unsuccessful, winning only six of 13 ner approaches.

The aggressive groundstrokes of Li forced the action with 31 winners to 24 errors. Schiavone was never able to find her rhythym against the deep ball, hitting only 12 winners in the process of committing 17 errors.

Creating history with her win, Li became the first Chinese player to ever win a major singles title, one year after Schiavone made history of her own being the first Italian in the open era to win a major.

 

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