Francesca Schiavone: Can the Veteran Italian Get Her Game Back on Track?

Van SiasContributor IIIMay 7, 2012

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 18:  Francesca Schiavone of Italy reacts in her second round match against Romina Oprandi of Italy during day three of the 2012 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 18, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Dadswell/Getty Images)
Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

With the second Grand Slam of the season—the French Open—right around the corner, Francesca Schiavone hasn't done much so far to mark herself as a contender. Her latest loss comes at the hands of young American Varvara Lepchenko in the first round of the Mutua Madrid Open.

Schiavone, the 2010 French Open champion and last year's runner-up, has been generally regarded as one of the best clay-court players in the women's game over the past few years. This latest loss pushes her record on the year further below the .500 mark.

The spring clay stretch marked the perfect opportunity for the Italian veteran to get her game back on track, but that hasn't been the case. Before this week's tournament, she's had losses to Lesia Tsurenko, Olga Govortsova and Lucie Safarova this year on the surface that best suits her game.

Schiavone's playing style is one of the most varied on the women's tour today. She can whip her one-handed backhand with heavy topspin or slice it. Her forehand is very effective, and she's adept at creating sharp angles that can pull her opponents off the court.

Schiavone's athleticism is off the charts, as she can usually stay back and bang balls back and forth for hours if need be. She's also one of the best movers on the dirt, able to seemingly glide into her shots.

Right now, though, it seems that players are effectively taking advantage of whatever seems to be putting her off track. With the French Open set to start in a few weeks, there are few opportunities to reverse the tide. Still, both of her final-round appearances in the past were somewhat unexpected. Perhaps Schiavone has more in the tank to reserve a spot on the podium at the end of the fortnight at Roland Garros.