(June 9th, 2012) With a combination of powerful shots and patience when dealt with some remarkable last minute winners from her opponent, Maria Sharapova completed a career Grand Slam after winning her first French Open title.
|By Erik Gudris
||Photo Credit: AFP/Jacques Demarthon
Facing a surprise finalist in No. 21 seed Sara Errani, the key for No.2 seed Sharapova would be how her trademark offense would match up against the steady defense of the Italian that wore down so many players throughout the two weeks. The answer, at least for the start of the match, was quite easily as Sharapova stormed out to a 4-0 lead while a nervous Errani could barely win points.
But with the help of some double faults from Sharapova, Errani broke serve to earn her first game and soon was a participant in the match, forcing Sharapova to come up with spectacular, line-painting winners to end the rallies. Down 2-5, Errani saved two set points against her and held for 3-5. Errani got to 30-all in the next game after winning an 18-shot rally, but Sharapova finally won the set with a backhand winner, her 17th of the set.
More precision backhands from Sharapova helped her break Errani's serve to open the second set. Serving up 2-1, an apparent Sharapova ace was called wide and it lead to Errani's first break point opportunity. But more big hitting from Sharapova quickly snuffed out that chance and she held for 3-1. The next game went to five deuces before it ended with Errani hitting what looked like a winning drop shot only to see Sharapova chase it down and hit the ball right back to Errani who netted giving Sharapova a double break lead.
But Errani kept fighting. With a monster forehand followed by a down the line backhand winner, the Italian broke Sharapova to pull within 4-2. But the momentum was short-lived as Sharapova broke back with a backhand winner of her own and with that the title was on Sharapova's racquet as she next served.
What felt inevitable with Sharapova serving for the match and the title at 5-2 became very unclear as Sharapova hit a forehand long on her first match point. A clever drop shot from Errani set up a break point that Sharapova quickly fought off.
An ace set up another match point but again Errani hit an unbelievable drop shot winner. On her third match point, Sharapova engaged Errani in a long rally that ended with Errani trying another drop shot. But this one didn't clear the net and with it Sharapova sealed a 6-3, 6-2 victory to claim her first French Open title.
"Thank you very much for your support. It's a magnificent moment for me," Sharapova told the French crowd after receiving the trophy from former champion Monica Seles. "I'm really speechless. It's been such a journey for me." Sharapova admitted afterwards when speaking to Mary Carillo on NBC that this victory meant the most to her of any the titles she has won throughout her career.
Sharapova now completes a career Grand Slam having won Wimbledon in 2004, the U.S. Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008. She will return to No. 1 on Monday. Sara Errani, who won the women's doubles title earlier with Roberta Vinci, will now climb to No. 10 in the world in singles.