Hong Kong: Francesca Schiavone on Monday said she regarded Serena Williams as better than Steffi Graf after she drew within four Grand Slam titles of the German great's Open-era record.
The 2010 French Open champion described Williams as "special" after the American won her 18th major title at the US Open, tying Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova on the all-time list. (Related: Serena, a champion amongst peers)
"Sometimes I think she's the best there's ever been," Schiavone, speaking at the Foreign Correspondents' Club in Hong Kong, said of the 32-year-old world number one. (Serena vs Caroline final in pics)
"She's special. When there was Navratilova, Graf, I was thinking who can come and better than this and she arrived and it was Serena."
Williams has vowed to add to her Grand Slam haul as she inches towards Graf's 22 titles and possibly the all-time record of 24 held by Australia's Margaret Court.
She was a 6-3, 6-3 winner over Caroline Wozniacki, who reached the final after China's Peng Shuai collapsed with heat problems in her first Grand Slam semi-final.
"It's always tough getting injured. For a player that's the worst," said Schiavone, who lost the 2011 French Open final to Peng's compatriot Li Na.
"She's a big talent, she works very hard. I hope she can stay in shape and show everyone she can be a really good player," said the 34-year-old, now ranked 74th in the world.
Peng has since withdrawn from this week's inaugural WTA Hong Kong Open, where 74th-ranked Schiavone will play along with Germany's Sabine Lisicki.