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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Friday May 14, 2021

Petra Martic

Petra Martic is flying in Rome, and her new partnership with Francesca Schiavone is one of the reasons.

Photo Source: Getty

Despite some solid results after tennis restarted from the pandemic, Croatia’s Petra Martic felt that there was something missing from her game. This year, after her struggles continued, Martic reached out to an Italian legend for help: Italy’s Francesca Schiavone.

Tennis Express

The pair began working together during the clay-court season, and after a slow start to their working relationship, Martic has hit her stride in Rome, where she powered into the semifinals today with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over American Jessica Pegula (Martic will face Karolina Pliskova in the semifinals).

“After my loss in Miami I had to rethink my situation,” Martic, a former World No.14 and Roland Garros quarterfinalist, told Tennis Now. “I didn't play the way I wanted to. Things were not going my way. I really just started to think who I want to be my next coach.”

Schiavone, a wizard on clay, and the 2010 Roland-Garros champion, naturally came to mind. The next mission? Call her up!

“I wanted someone who was an ex-player, someone who fought, who was positive, who just maybe even played similar to me, can understand my game really well,” Martic said. “That was a struggle for me before with my previous coaches. That's how I came up with Francesca. I called her up, and she was happy to take on this challenge, start working with me. So we started just before the clay court season started. This is our trial period. But I really hope that we are going to continue throughout.”

Martic tells Tennis Now that her success in Rome is about getting her confidence back and trusting her shots, more than adding any new wrinkles to her game.

“I think I knew my game,” Martic said. “I've always known my game pretty well. It was just more of getting my confidence back, pointing out the things I do well on court. I feel like when you struggle with confidence, you also forget things you do really well on court. Those are the things you need to realize, especially in those tough moments. She was there to really keep reminding me of you serve really well, you do this really well, like believe that, trust that, trust your game. First two tournaments on clay it was still a bit of a struggle. Looks like here things really started, yeah, getting together.”

Her turnaround this week has been rather remarkable. Martic entered the week on a five match losing streak and has now reeled off four straight wins to reach her first Rome semifinal. She was 1-4 lifetime at the Foro Italico prior to this year.

Martic says having the support of Schiavone helps with the Italian fans as well.

“Definitely to have her around, to have a crowd behind me and people know that she's my coach and all those things, you know, you try to take whatever you can,” she said. “Obviously my game started really coming together, like pieces are really like being like put together. Now it looks like a whole picture finally, and I don't need to think so much on the court anymore. Especially today, I just played. That was not the case for so long, like the whole beginning of this 2021. I'm really just starting to enjoy the game out there.”

Schiavone is a legend of the game, a pure artist on the clay who always wore her heart on her sleeve, who earned her status by winning the Roland-Garros title in 2010, and then making a return trip to the final in 2011. But the Italian also had success leading the Italians to Fed Cup glory (three titles) as well as her eight WTA titles. She’s also the first Italian to ever win a major singles title.

Martic says the 40-year-old is intense on court, but also very relaxed in her own way.

“I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so she tries to calm me down, chill,” Martic said. “You don't need an extra shot on the practice. Trust what you have, it's going to be fine. She's on one hand very intense and she wants to work hard, and we do work hard, but at the same time she wants me to kind of steer away a little bit from that perfectionism that I have tendency to.

“She's balancing me out. It's really nice to have that calm next to you when you feel like the nerves are getting to you. That's really big for me.”


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