TENNIS.com PARIS—Maria Sharapova was ahead, and that was the problem. She was up a set and a break on an opponent who appeared to be hopelessly overmatched. She was four games from winning a tournament that few thought she would ever win, four games from achieving something, a career Grand Slam, that no woman in a decade had achieved. How many more chances would she have to complete this historic double, and to do it against Sara Errani, a player ranked outside the Top 10?
The answer, most likely, was none—this was Sharapova’s chance. The thought was enough to make the game’s reigning ice queen crack just a little. Serving at 2-1 in the second set, her customary shrieks took on a desperate tone. Instead of swinging freely, as she had throughout this clay season, she began to muscle the ball. For one of the few times during the day, her service toss went awry. From 40-15 up, Sharapova made three unforced errors—two of which landed limply in the net—to go down a break point.
This time, when she got the balls from the ball kids, Sharapova took a few extra seconds before she turned to face the court. When she finally did, she walked with a firmer step up to the baseline. The shriek she let out on her next forehand down the line still sounded a little frightened, and the swing wasn’t exactly free and easy. But she put the ball on the line. Errani jerked her head up; she couldn’t believe it. Sharapova went on to hold.
This is the way it went for Sharapova on Saturday. There are matches that, afterward, we like to say were “closer than the scores indicated.” Maria's 6-3, 6-2 win over Errani wasn't close—Sharapova never trailed—but it was certainly “tenser than the scores indicated.” From the start, she had to do the tough job. She had to go for the big shots, take the risks, hit the winners. If there’s such a thing as a “pesky wallboard,” Errani is it. To the end, to her last towering, desperation lob return at match point, and her two beautifully disguised drop shots in the final game, the Italian didn’t give an inch or let Sharapova relax for a point.
The stat sheets tell the story of who controlled this match: Sharapova littered hers up with 37 winners and 29 errors, while Errani finished with a tidily conservative 12 and 11 of each. Afterward, Errani credited the champion for her aggression.
“She won many points with the serve, with the return, in the first two or three shots,” Errani said, “so for me it was difficult. I couldn’t arrive to play long points like I want to play, so was difficult for me.”
Win of Passion