French Open: Game, set and match as Maria Sharapova completes sweep
MARIA Sharapova marked her rise back to the summit of the women’s game by beating Sara Errani 6-3, 6-2 to clinch her first French Open title and complete her set of grand slam trophies.
The 25-year-old, who tomorrow will overtake Victoria Azarenka to become world No.1 for the first time in four years, is the tenth woman to achieve a career Grand Slam, following in the footsteps of the likes of Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams.
Errani’s brilliant run to the final, which included wins over Ana Ivanovic, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Sam Stosur, was one of the most surprising for many years but in the end Sharapova’s extra power was simply too much. For a brief moment Errani was the champion, but that was simply an error by the announcer that brought laughter all round, and it was not long before Sharapova was presented with the trophy by three-time winner Monica Seles.
Describing Seles as an inspiration, Sharapova said: “It’s a magnificent moment in my career. I’m really speechless. It’s been such a journey to get to this stage. I have so many people to thank, especially my wonderful team. But most importantly my mother and father. They’re my rock, they keep me together and they’ve kept me going through all the tough times and the good times.”
Errani will break into the top ten tomorrow, and she said: “I don’t feel like top ten but I will be top ten. It’s incredible for me, I can’t believe it and I’m so happy for that.”
The contest was a mismatch in many ways. Sharapova, a titan of the women’s game and multiple grand slam champion facing a player who had won only one match at Roland Garros prior to this year and stands less than 5ft 5in tall compared to Sharapova’s 6ft 2in.
Sharapova’s huge hitting always had the potential to overwhelm her opponent, and that was certainly the case in the first four games. Errani is a feisty and talented competitor, though, and, helped by two double faults from Sharapova, she hit straight back.
Sharapova, who has been hugely impressive this tournament, continued to pile the pressure on and brought up two set points with Errani serving at 5-2. The 25-year-old did not buckle, though, saving both, but Sharapova held her nerve to serve it out, clinching the game with a thumping backhand winner.
Sharapova’s last grand slam title came in Australia in 2008, prior to the shoulder surgery that she feared at one stage might end her career. She has been in superb form this season, winning titles on clay in Stuttgart and Rome to emerge as one of the main contenders on a surface once so alien she described herself as like a cow on ice.
She made the perfect start to the second set, breaking the Errani serve to love in the opening game, and then staved off a break point as the Italian sought to level at 2-2. Sharapova was winning the points that mattered, and she moved 4-1 ahead after a lengthy Errani service game.
The Italian was trying everything to knock Sharapova off her stride, including plenty of trips to the net, but, after pulling one break back, she promptly lost her serve again as the Russian powered away a backhand winner.
That left Sharapova serving for the title, but again Errani made her work very hard for it. The Italian saved two match points, one with a pinpoint drop shot, but on the third Sharapova was simply too good, the Russian sinking to her knees in celebration.
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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