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Sharapova Picks Up French Open Title to Complete Career Slam

Eight years after clenching her first major quarterfinal, ironically at Roland Garros, Maria Sharapova can finally call herself French Open champion. Sharapova dispatched Sara Errani, a surprise finalist, 6-3, 6-2 to obtain the career grand slam. Twice a semifinalist in 2007 and 2011, Sharapova now had a golden shot at grabbing the ultimate prize. While this was the third consecutive year that an Italian woman was battling for the title in Paris, for Errani ranked 24th in the world, this was her maiden major final appearance. Experience was certainly key at the start of the match as Sharapova broke on a backhand miscue by Errani to race to a 2-0 advantage. Subsequent to consolidating, Sharapova struck a backhand winner for a double break edge. Aided by two double faults from her opponent, Errani secured her first game and held to narrow the deficit to 2-4. Yet promptly, with a love game, Sharapova extended her lead to 5-2. After Errani fought off double set point to guard serve, Sharapova connected on her third set point with backhand down the line winner. By carrying the opening set 6-3, Sharapova had one hand on the French Open trophy. The second set unfolded similarly to the initial one with Sharapova breaking Errani at love to capture the early break. But, Errani overcame the effect of being a first time finalist at a major and tried to claw her way back. Despite the Italian’s defiance, Sharapova went ahead 2-0. Subsequent to a difficult game, with Sharapova’s backhand sailing long, Errani had a break point. But, Sharapova would not be denied and maintained serve for 3-1.

Then, in a long game where Errani had a myriad of opportunities to hold, Sharapova’s great hustling forced Errani to push a volley out of play leading to the Russian securing a second break for 4-1. Yet, Errani continued to battle. With a forehand return winner, the Italian had a break point. Errani seized the break by provoking Sharapova into a mistake. As expected, Sharapova blocked the previous game’s result by getting to triple break point. Sharapova pocketed the game by thumping a backhand up the line winner for 5-2. Serving for the match, Sharapova encountered more resistance from Errani who after dismissing championship point hit a spectacular dropshot to manufacture break point. However, Sharapova was up to the task and arrived at deuce. With an ace, Sharapova sealed her third match point. She finally converted when Errani sliced a backhand into the net. Following the match, Errani congratulated Sharapova and thanked her team. She admitted “Maria played very strong, it was difficult to run”. Errani recognized that being a finalist at a major could have been a once in a lifetime chance “maybe it will never happen again. I had to fight as hard as I can”. Sharapova was all smiles even when the announcer mistakenly declared Errani the victor. In accepting the trophy, Sharapova expressed that “the match was difficult. . .I’m speechless. It’s been a journey to get to this stage. . .Thanks to my team. . .[particularly] my mom and dad who have been my rock, who keep me up and motivated”. For both players, this fortnight has been a dream. Errani ousted 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic in the third round, took care of 2009 winner Svetlana Kuznetsova in the round of 16, world number ten Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals then shocked U.S. Open reigning champion and 2010 French Open finalist Sam Stosur in the semifinals. While Errani was disappointed in singles, partner Roberta Vinci and she yesterday claimed the doubles title. Moreover, Errani can be proud of her performance as she will climb to a career high ranking of 10. The Australian Open 2008 was the last time Sharapova hoisted the grand prize at a major and was also number one. At this tournament, with her semifinal victory over Petra Kvitova, Sharapova supplanted Victoria Azarenka at number one. Azarenka was sent packing in the fourth round. After being a finalist at the Australian Open, BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, the Sony Ericsson Open, all of Sharapova’s title this season have been on clay including Stuttgart and Rome. In the Open Era only six women have achieved the career grand slam with Serena Williams being the last in 2002-03. With Williams, Sharapova’s biggest nemesis and slated quarterfinal rival, bounced in the first round, the Russian did not have to face a top ten opponent until the semifinal. Sometimes, one needs a bit of luck to reach new heights.

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