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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Francesca Schiavone may be at the twilight of her tennis career, but instead of fading into the sunset, the 30-year-old Italian is trying to navigate her way to a second grand slam title of the season.
Schiavone, who delighted crowds at Roland Garros earlier this year en route to a surprise maiden grand slam win at the French Open, has started to find success at a time when most of her peers have already walked away from the game.
But after easing through her first round match at the U.S. Open against Japan's Ayumi Morita on Monday, Schiavone said she is more focused on enjoying the game and pleasing fans.
"I'm 30 years old and I want to enjoy the people," she told reporters after her straight sets victory. "And I feel like the people enjoy me, and for me that's important."
In an age where the women's game is dominated by the heavy hitters, Schiavone revels in doing things differently. Against Morita, she relied heavily on her volley, winning a third of her points from the net.
For the Milanese player, "the beautiful game", as she calls it, is almost as important as winning itself.
"Who you are is the key to the emotion that you can give people," said Schiavone.
"If you watch <Rafa Nadal>, I think you can enjoy things, say 'I'm here, I want to scream.' If you watch Roger Federer, you can feel different. It depends who you are and what you do on court. I hope the people can understand who I am and what I do."
For Schiavone to clinch the title in New York, she will need to improve her game, which has dropped off in recent months.
Since celebrating the biggest win of her career at the French Open, she has won just four matches, including Monday's win over Morita. But Schiavone is confident of regaining her top form.
"I think when you try to reach the top of a mountain then you can't go more and more up," she added. "Then you have to go down and come back up again. I'm doing this and, when it's time to come back up again, I will do it."
Editing by Frank Pingue