Sharapova Defeats Errani in Paris to Complete Career Grand Slam

Maria Sharapova defeated Sara Errani to win her first French Open title, completing the career Grand Slam four years after injuries almost forced her to quit tennis.

Sharapova, the No. 2 seed, won 6-3, 6-2 over No. 21 Errani at Roland Garros in Paris. She lost just one set in seven matches en route to the title and sunk to the clay after she won today on a backhand error by Errani.

“This is an amazing moment in my career,” Sharapova told the crowd in French, after former champion Monica Seles handed her the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen. “I’m speechless, it’s been such a journey to get to this stage.”

The Russian had embraced her coach Thomas Hogstedt and the rest of her team after her victory.

The 25-year-old is the 10th woman to capture all four of tennis’s major championships. She became a global star and the world’s highest-paid female athlete by winning Wimbledon at age 17 in 2004, and also took the 2006 U.S. Open and 2008 Australian Open titles. Her previous best result in Paris was the semifinals last year and in 2007.

“I just want to congratulate Maria, she played a good match today,” said Errani, who will be ranked inside the top 10 next week. She sat in her chair and cried after the match was over.

Errani’s First

The 25-year-old was playing in her first Grand Slam singles final. She won the women’s doubles title yesterday with fellow Italian Roberta Vinci, becoming the first woman since Kim Clijsters in 2003 to make both finals in Paris.

“I’ve seen you play in the last two weeks,” Sharapova told Errani. “What an amazing tournament you have had. The match you gave me today, it was extremely difficult.”

Sharapova regained the top spot in the women’s WTA Tour rankings with her semifinal win against Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova two days ago. She was No. 1 in 2008 before a shoulder injury forced her to have surgery, keeping her out of action for nine months and dropping her out of the top 100.

Sharapova seemed on the way to a quick victory early on, as she stood on top of the baseline dictating the rallies and taking the first four games with a string of winners off both wings. The 5-foot-5 Errani clawed back one break at 4-0 down as she started to settle and Sharapova produced two double faults. Serving at 5-2 down, the crowd cheered as Errani saved two set points. Serving at 5-3, the 6-foot-2 Sharapova won the set with a backhand winner.

Second Set

Watched by former champions Seles and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Sharapova broke in the opening game of the second set as she stepped in to take Errani’s high-bouncing kick-serve early.

Sharapova was pushed in the fourth game, saving a break point with a deep forehand, only to go 3-1 up with a forehand. Although Errani varied her game to unsettle the hard-hitting Sharapova, throwing in an occasional moon ball or a drop shot, the Russian forced another break after five deuces to take a 4-1 lead. Just like in the first set, Errani got one break back with a running forehand, only to lose her serve in the next game.

Serving for the career Grand Slam, Sharapova set up her first match point with a running forehand. She missed it with a forehand long. Instead, Errani got to break point with a drop shot. Sharapova thumped a backhand winner to save it.

Her fifth ace set up a second match point, only for Errani to save it once again with a drop shot after a long rally. A sixth ace set up match point No. 3, and this time Sharapova won it as Errani hit a backhand into the net.

Celebrations Begin

Sharapova sunk to the clay and held her head in her hands after she won the match, and then bounced around the center court to celebrate.

The Russian produced 37 winners, over three times more than Errani. The Italian made 11 unforced errors, compared with 29 for Sharapova.

With the victory, Sharapova improved to 16-0 on red clay this year. She also won tournaments in Rome and Stuttgart.

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