Maria Sharapova, the long woman with short odds, downed another long woman Petra Kvitova to claim a spot in the finals of the 2012 French Open and reclaim the top ranking on the WTA. With swirling winds and bright sun, Sharapova (2) showed the composure needed to dismiss big-hitting Czech left-hander Petra Kvitova, the 4th seed. It was all business for Sharapova who achieved what seemed like an unlikely milestone after undergoing long periods off the tour and suffering painful shoulder surgery. For the past few years, Sharapova has resurrected her game and her reputation while fighting an erratic serve and stiff competition.
Despite criticism, Maria persevered. And, she did it with iron determination and gutsy performances. The 6’0” Russian, who schooled with ailing Nick Bollittieri in Florida as a teen, not only secured her top ranking but established herself as the class of the field. If she is able to champion this tournament, she will become just the sixth woman to hold all four Grand Sam titles.
Against Kvitova, play was hampered by the wind. Relying on her years of experience, Maria slowed the tempo and concentrated on one point at a time. Meanwhile, Petra seemed distracted by the wind, the moment and her opponent. In key games, she had difficulty with her ball toss. She would display her strong shot-making abilities only to make a critical unforced error.
Maria mustered three aces, Kvitova, with every bit as big a serve as Maria had no aces. Points were short. Sharapova registered ten outright winner. Petra had seven. This match boiled down to composure and who wanted it most. When big points were at stake, Sharapova played like, well, the world number 1.
Sara Errani Climbs The Mountain
Heavily favored Samantha Stosur, the six seed, who had not lost a set reaching the semifinals had many chances to take control of her match with Italy’s Sara Errani, but could not pull the trigger against the tenacious 21st seed. Stosur could not be blamed for thinking she was re-living another French Open debacle against a pint sized Italian puff ball hitter. As a strong favorite, Stosur came up short against Francesca Schiavone two years ago in the finals.
This year, she was again heavily favored against the 5’4” Errani whose downwind first serve barely clears 80 mph. Stosur’s big kicking serve is one of the best in the lady’s game, but the pint-sized Errani was able to break Samantha’s serve twice in the first set and twice more in the decisive third set.
After a tense, sloppily played first set, Stosur began to and her lethal forehand and was successful in carrying the play. She dominated Sara and headed to the third set with the momentum. Errani appeared unnerved and uncomfortable. She surprised Stosur with a good hold and then pressured Stosur whose confidence began to fluctuate. The Australian’s usually dominant forehand began to sail long. Her always erratic backhand looked awkward and presented Errani a big target that Stosur tried to cover but lacked the footwork to defend consistently.
Stosur had 24 more outright winners than Sara but had 27 more unforced errors. Errani won an unexpected 68 percent of her first serves and just 15 percent of her second serves. This was a match that was Stosur’s to lose. There was no downside for Errani whose determination was the difference in the rugged, wind-filled arena.
The little Italian has won three, three-set wins in reaching the finals. Her 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 win over Stosur was her fourth straight underdog win. Sara is set to take the reins for Italy’s Olympic team. In addition to reaching the finals of the singles, Sara has also made the finals in the doubles alongside compatriot Roberta Vinci.
The finals will be the first time Errani and Sharapova have played. Once again, Errani is playing with the house’s money. How her 80 mph first serve will fare against the Sharapova power will probably decide the match. This is about as close to a David and Goliath matchup as a Grand Slam finals could be.
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