PARIS - For more than a decade as a professional tennis player, and nearly 30 years as a person, Francesca Schiavone waited and worked to reach this particular moment on this particular court, and there was no way she was going to conceal her excitement about arriving.
As Schiavone moved closer, point by important point, to winning the French Open title at Roland Garros, and to giving Italy its first female champion in a Grand Slam tournament, she let everyone watching share in the sheer joy.
When it was hers, the 17th-seeded Schiavone covered her face with both hands, then dropped to the ground and stayed on her back for a few moments, smearing her white outfit with rust-colored clay, relishing the 6-4, 7-6 (2) win over seventh-seeded Samantha Stosur and the little steps that brought her there, right where she always believed she could be.
Schiavone (pronounced Skee-ah-VOH-nay) curled over and kissed the court, giving thanks to "this clay, this beautiful tournament, and this arena," as she put it later, for giving her "this opportunity and all the emotion that I am living."
She turns 30 this month, making her the oldest woman since 1969 to win her first Grand Slam championship. On Monday, Schiavone will rise to a career-best No. 6 in the WTA rankings, making her the oldest woman since 1998 to make her top-10 debut.
Consider how far she's come in only 12 months: In the 2009 French Open, Schiavone was ranked 50th and lost in the first round against - you guessed it - Stosur.
"When you achieve goals with self-awareness, by working on who you are and what you do every day of your life, you're able to appreciate it much more," she said in Italian. "I finally was ready to win this trophy."
Neither of Saturday's participants had played in a Grand Slam singles final before - only the fifth such matchup in the 42-year Open era.
During the on-court ceremony, Schiavone took a congratulatory call from Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, and also spoke on a cell phone with her parents. They get too wound up watching her play, so they remained home in Milan.