Schiavone back in business

  • Last Updated: May 1 2013, 9:14 BST

At the age of 32 and having slid from a career-high of fourth to her present position at 37 in the WTA rankings, it might seem safe to assume that Francesca Schiavone's best days are behind her.

Francesca Schiavone: Impressive return to form
Francesca Schiavone: Impressive return to form

But it would take a brave critic to entirely dismiss the chances of the ferociously competitive Italian as she heads into her favourite clay-court season with her sights set on reaching a third French Open final.

Schiavone, widely accepted as one of the best clay-court players on the circuit, clinched her sixth career title in Morocco last weekend, bringing an end to a year of illness and injury that saw her slip out of the world elite.

Sweeping through the tournament without losing a set, Schiavone served notice of her intentions and she looks to once again bask in the kind of glory afforded her after her surprise 2010 Grand Slam triumph.

Schiavone said: "My win in Marrakech was really built on sweat and blood. The times are different now, and I really believe I am growing every year.

"I'm more consistent and I'm in better physical condition. I'm managing the decisive points better, and my performances are really paying off."

Schiavone almost managed to defend her French Open title, returning to the final the following year where she lost a close match against China's Li Na.

But despite rebounding in 2012 with a tournament win in Strasbourg, it seemed Schiavone's career was in decline when she lost in the third round of that year's French Open to Varvara Lepchenko.

Subsequent first-round losses in the US Open, to Sloane Stephens, and the Australian Open to Petra Kvitova possibly gave an unfair slant to her poor form given the obvious quality of her opposition.

And Schiavone is now intent on making a mockery of those doubters who considered her top level career was as good as over as she moves deeper into her clay-court campaign.

Schiavone added: "Morocco was a great week for me after a long and very difficult period. It is a great start to the clay-court season for me and it inspires me to keep working hard.

"I've managed to fight back from some really difficult times. At the moment I'm just enjoying playing in front of some great crowds and giving it my best."

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