• Italian avoids second successive first-round upset

• Dokic had levelled at one set each when rain came

It is amazing what losing does for you. This time last year Francesca Schiavone slipped out of Wimbledon after losing in the first round, exhausted by the effort and the after-effects of her dramatic French Open triumph. Twelve months on the Italian, who lost in the final at Roland Garros just over two weeks ago, had just enough in the tank to see off a rejuvenated Jelena Dokic in the first round here.

Schiavone’s 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 victory over the Australian was hard-fought and well earned. The momentum looked as if it was with Dokic when she ripped through the second set but the Italian broke again to lead 5-3 in the third and saved four break points on her own serve to close it out.

“I’m happy to win,” said Schiavone, who plays Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova of the Czech Republic next. “This match was really tough for me. I think keeping going, I will have much more chance to play better, so for the next round I hope to really improve.”

After Schiavone won in Paris last year, the demand on her time, from media, friends and family, was so intense that she was shattered by the time she arrived at Wimbledon. Her subsequent three-set defeat by the Russian Vera Dushevina was unsurprising; having lost all three of her previous meetings with Dokic, she went into today’s match fearing the worst.

It is 12 years since Dokic, now 28, beat the then champion, Martina Hingis, in the first round and 11 since she reached the semi-finals. After several years of personal problems and injuries, she has clambered back to a ranking of 45 and on this kind of form should go higher.

Schiavone won the first set thanks to her greater consistency. But Dokic’s power was already causing her problems and Dokic found her range at the start of the second set to surge to a 4-1 lead. Yet it would not be a Dokic match if there was not a chunk of drama: holding a break point for 5-1, she slightly turned her right ankle.

It looked innocuous and Dokic went on to level the match at one set apiece. But the rain that took the players off the court for 50 minutes, with the score tied at 1-1 in the third, cost Dokic her momentum. When they returned under the roof, everything changed again.

Schiavone began to move Dokic around the court and the errors flowed. Though the Australian hit back from 3-1 down to level at 3-3, a double fault gave Schiavone the crucial break for 5-3 and she served out after saving four break-back points.

“For me [the rain] was fantastic because I started the third set and I couldn’t understand why she was playing so aggressive and I couldn’t move her,” Schiavone said. “When they put the roof on, I went back to the locker room and I spoke with Corrado Barazzutti [Italy’s Fed Cup coach]. He told me something really important [to move Dokic] and I came back and I was playing better.”

Dokic admitted the rain break had not helped her chances of victory. “I thought I was getting on top of her at the end of the second set and beginning of the third,” she said. “But it happens. It’s very disappointing but I just have to get over it quickly.”

She added that she hoped to regroup quickly and would be making a place in the top 30 and a seeding at next year’s Australian Open her short-term goals.

“I thought I played a decent match,” she said. “As much as this is disappointing, I am in a very good position with my ranking in getting into all the events. I haven’t been in that position for five, six, seven years. It’ll hurt but I have to move on. I’m having a good year.”

Source : www.guardian.co.uk