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Power alone is not enough on clay, says Schiavone

By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) - While the women's game is becoming more and more power-based in recent years, simply bludgeoning the ball across the net will not be enough to win the French Open, champion Francesca Schiavone said on Friday.

Venus and Serena Williams, along with Maria Sharapova are just some of the players who have taken power-hitting to a new level over the past decade -- but their limited success on clay proves that players cannot simply rely on flexing their muscles to win the Suzanne Lenglen Cup.

The trio have won 23 majors between them since 1999 but only one of them -- Serena's success at Roland Garros in 2002 -- has been achieved on the red stuff.

Italian fifth seed Schiavone, who will take on Chinese sixth seed Li Na in Saturday's final, is on a 13-0 streak at Roland Garros and credited her success to a combination of her sliced backhand and spinning forehand, along with her ability to quickly switch tactics.

"You have to be good physically, mentally, have good tactics. You can't play just power, because you always need to defend and counterattack," Schiavone told a news conference.

"So when you play a point on clay, you can defend, then attack, then go to the net and then have to defend again.

Margaret Smith Court, Chris Evert, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles and Justine Henin have achieved the feat already.

If Schiavone joins that prestigious club on Saturday, she is looking forward to inspiring many young Italians to pick up the sport.

"Last year when I won the French Open, the percentages of the people that sign in the tennis club, the kids, were much higher than before," she said.

"So that's good."

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)