Maria Sharapova finally crowned queen of clay at Roland Garros
Maria Sharapova was overwhelmed with relief as she closed a chapter on her magnificent career by powering past Sara Errani to claim a maiden Roland Garros crown and complete the career Grand Slam.
Sharapova celebrated her return to the top of the rankings by becoming just the 10th woman to win all four major trophies as she saw off the stubborn challenge from the unheralded Italian to win 6-3, 6-2 on Court Philippe Chatrier.
It’s been a tumultuous journey for the Russian baseliner from teenage upstart to one of the all-time greats, Sharapova battling through a career-threatening shoulder injury that saw her drop to a demoralising No.126 in 2009.
And who could forget the time she likened her movement on clay to “a cow on ice”?
However, Sharapova got back to full fitness and made a special effort to improve on the red dirt. And eight years after storming onto the scene as a 17-year-old with a quarter-final finish in Paris, the new world No.1 finally took her place as the queen of clay.
“It’s been such a journey for me to get to this stage,” said Sharapova, who was guaranteed of knocking Victoria Azarenka off the top of the rankings regardless of yesterday’s result.
“It took me many years to get to this stage. Eight years ago it was my first breakthrough Grand Slam, I got to the quarters and eight years from that day I’m here on this stage.
“I will say that no matter how many Grand Slams you win, to be here and to win this one, even if it was my only one, it would be just as special as it is winning my fourth.”
Sharapova added the French Open title to triumphs at Wimbledon in 2004, the US Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008 .
She would have been kicking herself had she failed to complete the major quartet, given the size, experience and power advantage she brought to her first meeting with Errani.
But in fairness to the diminutive 21st-seed, who gave away nine-and-a-half inches in height to her opponent, the score didn’t do justice to her fighting display.
Down 4-0 in the first set, Errani turned what looked to be a blowout into an 89-minute battle of wills, filled with long rallies that forced Sharapova to find another gear.
Eventually, Sharapova’s stronger serve and bigger groundstrokes wore down the 25-year-old, Errani netting a backhand on the third match point to concede the championship.
Yet there was light at the end of the tunnel for Errani, who’ll move into the top 10 for the first time tomorrow having swept past four seeds, including former champions Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ana Ivanovic and 2010 runner-up Sam Stosur, on the way to her maiden Grand Slam decider.
And she added: “I don’t feel like top 10 but it’s incredible for me and I can’t believe and I’m so happy for that.”
Meanwhile, there’ll be more history made at Roland Garros today when Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic meet in the men’s final - Nadal aiming for a record seventh French Open trophy and the Serb world No.1 vying to become the first man since Rod Laver in 43 years to win four-straight Grand Slams.