Photo: Paul ZimmerSara Errani (ITA)
DAY 12: Maria Sharapova continued her serene progress through the women’s draw at Roland Garros on Thursday as she saw off world No.3 Petra Kvitova in straight sets to book a place in her first final at the Paris Grand Slam where she will meet Sara Errani who pulled off yet another upset, this time against Sam Stosur.
Errani was made to fight all the way in her first appearance in a Grand Slam semifinal with the momentum shifting from player-to-player on a regular basis as both felt the nerves and pressure that such a stage produces.
“I was very nervous, but at the same time I was really focused on the game. Maybe she had more pressure. So I just want to just think about what I had to do,” said Errani. “Try to forget everything, forget where I am. Just try to think ‑ maybe I was more focused than other moments on the more important moments because I just want to forget and try to do what I want to do, put the ball where I want to.”
The Italian, who will make her debut in the Top 10 on Monday following the victory, held her nerve at the end of a tight first set that featured just a single break of serve in the 11th game but her status as underdog seemed confirmed as she managed just a single game in a second set lasting little over half an hour.
Three games in a row to open the decider seemed to put the match back in her hands only for Stosur to reply with a trio of her own and leave the match delicately poised. The Australian, who was a finalist two years ago, threw in a double faults at key moments down 4-3 to gift break points, which Errani was only too happy to accept at the second time of asking before closing out a 75 16 63 victory.
Before the singles final Errani will partner fellow Italian Roberta Vinci on Friday in the doubles final, giving her the chance to become the first woman to win both titles since Mary Pierce in 2000. A win in the singles final would also make her the lowest ranked winner of the Roland Garros title in the Open era.
Sharapova had a much safer passage into the final in a 63 63 scoreline against the big-hitting Kvitova, and in the process earned a return to world No.1 for the first time since shoulder surgery in 2008.
“It's just amazing to be back in this position of being world No. 1 again,” beamed Sharapova. “It's a long road back; it's a long process. It's a lot of days of frustration and uncertainty not knowing if you'll ever get there.
“I think patience was very important today, because in conditions like this, no matter how good you're playing or bad, so many things equal out. I was also facing a tough opponent who's given me a lot of trouble in the past. I was really happy that I was able to win in two sets today.”
For the 25-year-old there is now the opportunity to join an elite group to have completed a career Grand Slam, with Roland Garros the only major title missing from her collection but she is keen not to underestimate her opponent.
“[Errani’s] been so great on this surface. It's her favourite surface to play on. The way she's been competing in the last two weeks… the way she competes and moves and, you know, gets herself back in position, makes you hit a lot of balls. She's certainly a very dangerous player.”
The first final of the tournament was also played on Thursday with Mahesh Bhupathi able to celebrate his birthday in style by taking home the mixed doubles crown playing alongside fellow Indian Sania Mirza. The seventh seeds proved too strong for Santiago Gonzalez and Klaudia Jans-Ignacik as they closed out the match 76(3) 61 to win their second Grand Slam title together.
Follow all action from Paris on the official tournament website: RolandGarros.com