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Schiavone eyes Italian glory on home dirt

sports Updated: May 09, 2011 09:53 IST

Italy's Francesca Schiavone, whose French Open title defence is looming at the end of the month, will be out to kickstart her faultering claycourt season on home dirt at this week's Italian Open.

The 30-year-old world number four lost her opening match in her first claycourt tournament of the year in Stuttgart last month and lasted two rounds longer in Madrid last week before being beaten by unseeded American Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

"That result left a bad taste in the mouth because I know I can do a lot better," Schiavone told reporters at the Foro Italico on Sunday. "I need to improve my concentration levels, better my rhythm and time my forehand."
With Kim Clijsters, Vera Zvonareva and the Williams sisters all missing through injury, world number one Caroline Wozniacki has been handed top seed status ahead of Schiavone.

The Italian has been given a bye in the first round and will face either Peng Shuai of China or American qualifier Christina McHale in her first encounter.

"It means a lot to me to be second seed," she said. "The first time I played here was as a wild card so it means I've improved. Of course, good results bring great responsibility."

Spain's Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez will defend her title without the luxury of a seeding.

The clay-court specialist, who beat Jelena Jankovic in last year's final, goes up against Russian Ekaterina Makerova in the second match on centre court on Monday, with the winner facing seventh seed Maria Sharapova.

This year's tournament looks particularly open with third seeded Belarussian Victoria Azarenka, Serbian fifth seed Jankovic, the winner in 2007 and 2008, and Russian Sharapova all in with a solid chance.

"I'm beginning to find my feet on the clay," former number one Sharapova told reporters on Sunday.

"I've been practising this year for a few more weeks, I feel stronger and more able to play long back-to-back tournaments. It was tougher before playing three set matches and then six matches in seven days."