Saturday, June 09, 2012

2012 FRENCH OPEN: Sharapova Gets Career Slam


Maria Sharapova became only the 6th woman to win the career Grand Slam (2012 French Open, 2008 Australian Open d. Ana Ivanovic, 2006 US Open d Justine Henin, 2004 Wimbledon d. Serena Williams) by defeating Serra Errani of Italy 6-3 6-2 in just under 90 minutes.

As I predicted yesterday, Errani was unable to provide enough offensive firepower due to her powder puff serve. In 17 games played, 9 served by Sharapova and 8 by Errani, the Italian was broken 5 times and held 3 times, while Sharapova held 7 times and was broken twice. This was actually slightly better than I had predicted, because I had thought that Erran would hold less times than she would break.

Although the score makes it seem like it was an easy match, the duration of the match and the number of breaks make it clear that the match was tougher than the final score indicates. In the first set, even though Sharapova broke and held twice to race to a 4-0 lead, Errani came back to win the next two games and held serve to force Sharapova to serve out the first set at 5-3, which she did after reaching a 30-all point with some good serving. In the second set Sharapova started with a break at love and held her serve to go up 2-0 but both the service games and the return games started to get closer as Errani started to go for her forehand and hit winners and successfully move her 6'2" opponent around the court to extend rallies. A series of holds followed until the 5th game when Sharapova broke again to take a 4-1 lead but the the two traded breaks to bring Sharapova to 5-2 to serve out the set and the match. Errani was not done fighting yet and fought off two championship points to get a break point, which Sharapova was able to gut out and then on the deuce point serve aces or service winners. On the 3rd championship point, Sharapova started with a good serve and got ahead in the point hitting a deep forehand cross-court to pull her opponent wide and then a backhand down the line which Errani attempted to slice back which barely made it into the net. Match over.

Sharapova's win is quite impressive considering most pundits thought her career was over after she had shoulder surgery in 2008 and for all of 2009 and 2010 had the service yips, often serving literally dozens of double faults in a match. But the Russian persevered, and made the semis here last year and then appeared in 3 of the last 4 grand slam finals, eventually winning her first Roland Garros title. The only other women to win all  4 majors are Martina Navratilova, Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams. Even Monica Seles who gave Sharapova the title and who won 9 ,major titles, was unable to win Wimbledon. Great players like Venus Williams, Billie Jean King and Justine Henin all have more majors than Sharapova but do not have a career slam. It is very possible that with a little more luck Sharapova could win 1 or 2 more slams before she retires, and maybe even more if she plays after Serena retires.

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