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Old Jun 10th, 2012, 01:42 AM   #1
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French Open 2012: Andrew's TV-reports (Fourth round added)

FRENCH OPEN (Roland Garros, Paris, France; outdoor red clay; Major)

Congratulations to Maria on winning her fourth Major title and completing her Career Grand Slam. As a Maria-fan since 2003, I have waited a long time for this moment. So many great champions finish their careers with one Major title having eluded them, so to win all four Majors is very special.

I’m also delighted that Maria has validated her return to the number-one ranking by winning her first Major title since the Australian Open 2008. That’s a very long time in tennis-terms, so it’s great for her to get that monkey off her back.

Maria is on top form at the moment, hitting her groundstrokes with an irresistable combination of power and pinpoint precision. She’s serving the best that she has served since before her shoulder-surgery in 2008. Her return of serve is an even bigger weapon, with many blazing winners. And she’s moving the best that she has ever moved on clay.

Unfortunately I had to work during the French Open, as I have a big deadline looming at the worst possible time of year. But I did see all seven of Maria’s matches on ITV, and I plan to write up my reports on the other six matches sometime between the Olympics and the French Open 2013. For now, here is my report on the final.


Women’s Singles: Final: Sara Errani v Maria Sharapova (Saturday 9th June 2012)

First set
ERRANI ____@*_*_ 3
SHARAP *@*@__*_* 6


The match was first on Court Philippe Chatrier, and started at 15:13 CEST. I saw the whole match on ITV1.

Sharapova serving 0-0: First serve + crosscourt backhand winner just inside the sideline. 15/0. Deep first serve induced Errani to spray a forehand return long. 30/0. Double fault #1 (second serve clipped the netcord and fell long). 30/15. In a nail-biting rally, Maria ran down a very short ball from Errani, and hit a deep down-the-line forehand that induced Errani to earth a backhand lob. 40/15 (GP #1). Ace #1: first serve out wide. Held.

Errani serving 0-1: Deep first serve out wide induced Maria to spray a forehand long. 15/0. Maria’s depth induced Errani to bunt a backhand long. 15/15. First serve out wide drew a short return, but Errani pushed an off-forehand wide. 15/30. Maria hit a pinpoint backhand winner down the line: on the sideline. 15/40 (BP #1). Maria dumped a makeable forehand return into the net. 30/40 (BP #2). Errani hit a nervy backhand long. Broken.

ITV commentator Amélie Mauresmo: “It’s not the kind of mistake you usually see from Sara Errani. She always makes you hit the extra shot.

“You can see her [Maria] playing with the mind of Errani, starting on the second serve to move around, make her think more, make her doubt her second serve.”
ITV commentator Sam Smith: “Just where Sharapova is standing at the end of the court, she doubts her second serve!”

Sharapova serving 2-0: Maria hit a deep off-forehand winner back behind Errani. 15/0. Maria hit a deep crosscourt forehand winner just inside the baseline – but Errani just stood there like a lemon, as if she’s too nervous to read the game. 30/0. Deep first serve out wide induced Errani to net a forehand return. 40/0 (GP #1). Ace #2: first serve down the middle, just inside the centre-line. Held.

So far, it looks like a total freeze by Errani. Maria’s playing quite well, but Errani is neither hitting nor moving well so far.

Errani serving 0-3: Errani hit a pinpoint crosscourt forehand just inside the sideline, inducing Maria to hit a forehand long. 15/0. Maria punished a short, weak first serve with a thumping forehand return-winner down Errani’s forehand sideline. 15/15. A longish baseline-rally ended with Errani dumping a cheap backhand into the net. 15/30. Maria broke up a crosscourt-backhand drill with a pinpoint backhand winner down the line: on the sideline. 15/40 (BP #1). Maria sprayed a forehand long. 30/40 (BP #1). A long baseline-rally ended with Errani hitting a deep topspin ball, forcing Maria back on her heels to net a forehand. Deuce #1. Short second serve out wide: Maria hit a crosscourt forehand return-winner. Ad Sharapova (BP #3). Maria nailed an off-forehand winner deep into the corner. Broken.

Maybe a few signs in that game that Errani is beginning to settle down, but Maria was ruthless. If Errani could play like at 30/40 consistently, Maria could be in trouble.

Sam Smith: “There’s just not enough on Errani’s rally-ball.”
Amélie Mauresmo: “Exactly, and she keeps going to Maria’s backhand.”

Sharapova serving 4-0: Double fault #2 (second serve into the net). 0/15. Errani nailed a pinpoint off-forehand winner just inside the sideline. 0/30. Double fault #3 (second serve clipped the netcord and fell long). 0/40 (BP #1). First serve down the middle: Errani hit a crosscourt forehand return just wide (the umpire checked the mark and confirmed it). 15/40 (BP #2). First serve forced a short return, but Maria sprayed an off-forehand just wide. Broken.

A loose service-game by Maria. Perhaps she’s getting a little complacent after Errani’s lack of resistance in the first three games.

Errani serving 1-4: Errani went to the net behind a moonball, and hit a beautiful off-backhand volley-winner. 15/0. Errani’s depth induced Maria to spray a forehand long. 30/0. Errani spread Maria with an acute crosscourt backhand followed by a forehand deep into Maria’s forehand corner, forcing Maria to net a forehand. 40/0 (GP #1). A nail-biting baseline-rally ended with Maria hitting a laserlike short-angled crosscourt forehand winner. 40/15 (GP #2). Errani forced a short ball but netted a backhand dropshot. 40/30 (GP #3). Maria forced a short ball, but sprayed a crosscourt forehand wide. Held.

Errani really transformed herself in that game. If she can keep this up, then the match could get very interesting. She’s got some momentum now, having won two games in a row. It’s a little too early to say that she’s got /the/ momentum.

Sharapova serving 4-2: Maria hit a pinpoint crosscourt backhand winner just inside the sideline. 15/0. Maria hit a pinpoint forehand winner down the line: on the baseline. 30/0. Maria hit a backhand winner down the line. 40/0 (GP #1). Deep first serve out wide forced Errani to bunt a crosscourt backhand wide. Held.

A very impressive game by Maria to steady the ship. She’s hitting her groundstrokes with power and pinpoint accuracy, which is an irresistable combination.

Errani serving 2-5 (new balls): Maria failed to reproduce the power and precision of the previous game, and dumped a backhand into the net. 15/0. Maria hit a short-angled crosscourt forehand just inside the sideline, forcing Errani to stretch wide and low, and net a forehand. 15/15. Errani netted a makeable forehand off a deep ball from Maria. 15/30. Maria’s deep crosscourt backhand induced Errani to float a crosscourt sliced backhand wide. 15/40 (SP #1 for Sharapova). Second serve: Maria blasted an off-forehand return into the net. 30/40 (SP #2 for Sharapova). Errani opened up the court with a short-angled crosscourt forehand to the sideline, and hit a pinpoint down-the-line forehand winner just inside the sideline. Deuce #1. Errani’s deep crosscourt backhand induced Maria to hit an off-backhand wide. Ad Errani (GP #1). A long baseline-rally ended with Maria mishitting a crosscourt backhand wide. Held.

Two set-points saved, and this match is looking much more competitive than it did at the beginning.

Sharapova serving 5-3: Maria forced a floater, and dispatched it with an off-forehand drive-volley winner. 15/0. Double fault #4 (second serve into the net). 15/15. First serve out wide induced Errani to hit a crosscourt forehand return wide. 30/15. Errani played a great spreading rally, opening up the court with a short-angled off-forehand to the sideline, and hitting a deep backhand winner down the line. 30/30. Maria’s crosscourt forehand forced a short ball, which she dispatched with an off-forehand winner. 40/30 (SP #3 for Sharapova). First serve out wide + pinpoint backhand winner down the line. Sharapova won the first set 6-3 at 15:49 CEST (36m).

ITV commentator Mark Petchey: “It got competitive towards the end; it promises much for the second set. [Errani is] courageous; she’s gutsy; she’s got tenacity. She clawed her way back to some degree, but ultimately, the power of Maria Sharapova is just overwhelming.”

ITV commentator Sam Smith said that Errani didn’t return well in the first set, and that that was the key thing that she needed to improve in the second.


Second set
ERRANI __*__@__ 2
SHARAP @*_*@_@* 6


Errani serving 0-0: Errani, on the third stroke, dumped a cheap backhand into the net. 0/15. Maria’s deep crosscourt backhand to the sideline forced Errani to net a defensive sliced backhand. 0/30. Maria, stretched wide, hit a backhand winner down the line. 0/40 (BP #1). Maria hit a deep, pinpoint backhand down the line, forcing Errani to bunt a forehand lob long. Broken.

There’s a nasty grey cloud in the sky. I get the impression that it’s quite cold, which is bad for Maria, but at least it’s not as windy as when she struggled for over three hours against Klára Zakopalová in the fourth round.

Sharapova serving 1-0: Maria’s deep crosscourt forehand induced Errani to bunt a forehand into the net. 15/0. Errani went to the net and hit a crosscourt backhand drop-volley winner. 15/15. Deep second serve induced Errani to hit a crosscourt backhand return wide. 30/15. Deep first serve down the middle forced Errani to mishit a forehand return long and wide. 40/15 (GP #1). Errani went to the net and hit a beautiful crosscourt forehand drop-volley winner. 40/30 (GP #2). Maria tried to spread Errani, but couldn’t put her away, and ended up netting a forehand off an awkward short ball that bounced low. Deuce #1. Ace #3: first serve out wide. Ad Sharapova (GP #3). Errani went for an awkward short sliced backhand, but Maria handled it with a pinpoint backhand winner down the line: on the baseline. Held.

Errani got to hit a couple of nice drop-volleys in that game (as befits one of yesterday’s Women’s Doubles champions), but Maria hasn’t allowed her to do that much today at all.

Errani serving 0-2: Errani hit a deep crosscourt forehand just inside the sideline, forcing Maria to bunt a forehand long. 15/0. Maria netted a backhand on the fourth stroke. 30/0. Errani took the initiative with a deep lob onto the baseline, forcing Maria to hoist a defensive backhand lob; Errani hit an off-forehand smash + crosscourt forehand smash-winner. 40/0 (GP #1). Maria forced a short ball, and blasted an off-forehand winner. 40/15 (GP #2). Double fault #1 (second serve long). 40/30 (GP #2). Errani netted a backhand. Deuce #1. Maria netted a backhand. Ad Errani (GP #3). Short second serve out wide: Maria hit a backhand return just long. Held.

Sharapova serving 2-1: Maria sprayed an off-forehand just long. 0/15. Maria, driven wide, hit a down-the-line backhand winner. 15/15. Ace #4: first serve down the middle. 30/15. Deep first serve down the middle induced Errani to hit an off-forehand return wide. 40/15 (GP #1). Errani’s deep return induced Maria to net a backhand. 40/30 (GP #2). Errani’s deep forehand forced Maria to net a forehand. Deuce #1. Ace: first serve out wide – but the umpire checked the mark and called it wide. Second serve... Maria sprayed a forehand long. Ad Errani (BP #1). In a nail-biting rally, Maria hit a pinpoint crosscourt forehand just inside the sideline, forcing Errani to bunt a forehand lob long. Deuce #2. Maria ran down a dropshot and painted the sideline with a crosscourt forehand winner. Ad Sharapova (GP #3). Maria’s deep crosscourt forehand forced Errani to bunt a forehand into the net. Held.

Amélie Mauresmo (after Maria ran down the dropshot at Deuce #2): “I think it’s quite clear to see the extra power she has on the lower part of the body, because she used big steps, but powerful steps.”
Sam Smith: “I think it has a lot to do with rehiring her trainer Yutaka Nakamura.”
Amélie Mauresmo: “She would never get to this ball, let’s say one year ago. She was not the best mover forward.”

Errani serving 1-3: Second serve: Maria hit a blazing off-forehand winner just inside the sideline. 0/15. Errani forehand long. 0/30. First serve + short-angled off-forehand winner. 15/30. Deep first serve induced Maria to hit a down-the-line backhand return just long. 30/30. Errani’s deep backhand induced Maria to hit a backhand long. 40/30 (GP #1). First serve out wide: Maria hit a stunning crosscourt backhand return-winner. Deuce #1. First serve out wide forced Maria to hit a crosscourt forehand return wide. Ad Errani (GP #2). Maria hit a pinpoint forehand winner down the line: on the sideline. Deuce #2. Maria hit a brilliant short-angled crosscourt forehand winner onto the sideline. Ad Sharapova (BP #1). Maria hit a crosscourt backhand wide. Deuce #3. First serve out wide induced Maria to hit a forehand return long. Ad Errani (GP #3). Maria wrong-footed Errani with a blazing short-angled off-forehand winner. Deuce #4. First serve out wide: Maria hit a thunderous forehand return-winner down the line. Ad Sharapova (BP #2). A longish baseline-rally ended with Maria hitting a forehand just long. Deuce #5. Maria’s deep crosscourt forehand forced Errani to earth a forehand. Maria shouted “c’mon”. Ad Sharapova (BP #3). Errani went to the net and hit a drop-volley; Maria ran it down and hit a down-the-line backhand into Errani’s body as she overran it. Broken.

An important game for Maria to win, even though she was already a set and a break up. Errani is playing well and displaying a feisty attitude.

Sharapova serving 4-1: Maria hit an off-forehand winner deep into the corner. 15/0. Deep first serve down the middle forced Errani to hit a forehand return long. 30/0. Errani opened up the court with a bunted forehand down the line, then hit a deep down-the-line backhand that forced Maria to run right and net a forehand. 30/15. Double fault #5 (second serve into the net). 30/30. First serve out wide: Errani gave Maria a taste of her own medicine with a down-the-line forehand return-winner. 30/40 (BP #1). Errani hit a pinpoint backhand down the line – just inside the sideline – forcing Maria to stretch wide and net a forehand. Broken.

That’s why the previous game was so important – Errani would have had the momentum, had it been 3-3 at this stage.

Errani serving 2-4: Maria hit a blazing backhand winner down the line. 0/15. Errani netted a makeable forehand. 0/30. Errani went to the net, but had to hit an awkward backhand volley from below the height of the net, which she pushed long. 0/40 (BP #1). Second serve: Maria hit an off-forehand return wide. 15/40 (BP #2). Maria hit a pinpoint backhand winner down the line from outside the sideline: just inside the sideline. Broken.

Mark Petchey: “She’s a special player. She’s a special champion. Errani brought her sword, but unfortunately this is a gun-fight.”

Sharapova serving 5-2 (new balls): Errani hit a deep forehand down the line, forcing Maria to bunt a backhand long. 0/15. Maria’s deep forehand just inside the baseline forced Errani to hit a crosscourt backhand wide. 15/15. Errani went to the net, but a dipping ball at her feet forced her to hit a backhand long. 30/15. Errani drew Maria to the net with a backhand dropshot, went to the net herself, and passed Maria with a crosscourt backhand volley-winner. 30/30. Maria ran down a crosscourt forehand and hit a running forehand pass-winner down the line. 40/30 (MP #1 for Sharapova). Maria hit a down-the-line forehand long – the world seemed to go into slow motion as it flew through the air. Deuce #1. Errani forced a short ball, and hit a forehand dropshot-winner down the line. Amélie Mauresmo: “She’s been trying different things, trying desperately to change the momentum: dropshotting, coming to the net, being more aggressive on the returns of serve.” Ad Errani (BP #1). First serve out wide + pinpoint short-angled crosscourt backhand winner onto the sideline. Deuce #2. Ace #5: first serve out wide. Ad Sharapova (MP #2). The world went into slow motion again... Errani broke up a nail-biting baseline-rally with an unbelievable down-the-line forehand dropshot-winner from the baseline. Deuce #3. Ace #6: first serve down the middle, just inside the centre-line. Ad Sharapova (MP #3). First serve long. Second serve... the world went into slow motion a third time... on the seventh stroke of the rally, Maria hit a crosscourt forehand onto the sideline, but Errani’s skyscraper forehand lob down the line landed just inside the sideline; however, Maria’s short-angled crosscourt backhand forced Errani to run outside the tramlines and net a sliced backhand. Sharapova won 6-3 6-2 at 16:42 CEST (second set 53m, match 1h29m).

Maria sank to her knees, and covered her face with her hands. She looked absolutely delighted, and reacted by jumping around in a circle before going into her usual victory-routine of blowing kisses to the four stands.

Errani sat in her chair with tears in her eyes.


Presentation-ceremony

Monica Seles presented the trophies. Monica is my favourite player of all time: very similar to Maria in the power of her groundstrokes, her intensity, and the volume of her grunting. So it was very fitting that the year that Monica presented the trophies was the year that Maria won the title!

The two MS kissed each other on the cheeks as Monica handed Maria the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen that she won herself as a 16-year-old in 1990, and again in 1991 and 1992 before that tragic stabbing incident on 30th April 1993.


Errani’s on-court interview

Cédric Pioline: “Sara, for the public a few words.”

Sara Errani: “Hi. I just I want to say ‘congratulate’ to Maria for the tournament today: you played a good match. I want to thank everybody that make possible this tournament, all the people that is here today. [She then thanked her parents in Italian.]”

Cédric Pioline said something inaudible, of which I only caught “first Grand Slam final”.

“I don’t feel like top ten, but I will be top ten [laughing]. I can’t believe it, and I’m so happy for that.”

Cédric Pioline: “Do you realise, from today on, your life is gonna change?”

Sara Errani: “I hope it doesn’t change! I want the same life!”


Maria’s speech

Maria Sharapova: “First, in English: Sara, what an amazing tournament. I’ve seen you play throughout the last two weeks, and the way you performed. The match you gave me today was extremely difficult. I know it’s our first meeting against each other, but I hope we get to play many more times, and be at the same stage of the tournament. So congratulations.”

“Maintenant, je parle français un petit peu. Un peu! Je voudrais dire ‘merci beaucoup’ pour votre soutien. C’est un magnifique moment dans ma carričre. [Now, I speak French a little bit. A bit! I would like to say ‘thanks a lot’ for your support. It’s a magnificent moment in my career.] I don’t know what else to say in French, but... it’s... I’m really speechless. It’s been such a journey for me to get to this stage. I don’t know. I have so many people to thank, but most importantly, is my wonderful team that keeps me together. My coach Thomas [Högstedt], for being there for me, for making me stronger. Juan [Reque], for taking care of my body – gracias por todo [thanks for everything]. And Cecil [Mamiit] for being a great addition to my team. Michael [Joyce], as well: thank you for all your work throughout the years – you really got me here on stage through all these injuries. Vladimir [Voltchkov], who’s not here – we’ll see you in a few weeks – he’s another part of my team. And most importantly, my mother and my father. They’re the ones, they’re my rock, that keep me together, that keep me up every single day, that keep me motivated, that kept me going through all the tough days and the good. Ya vas ochen sil’no ljublju [I love you very much].

“It took me many years to get to this stage. Eight years ago, it was my first breakthrough Grand Slam: I got to the quarter-finals. Eight years from that day, I’m here on this stage, and I’m so happy to share this moment with all of you today. Thank you Monica: you’re an inspiration to me. Thank you for giving me the trophy. When I was young, I always wanted to compete against you – and I did, but I lost very bad! But thank you. I cannot wait to be back. Merci beaucoup.”

Cédric Pioline asked her a question, but ITV presenter John Inverdale talked over it, and over the beginning of Maria’s answer.

Maria Sharapova: “Well, I will say that... if this was the first one I played, or if I didn’t have any Grand Slams, to be here and to win this one – if it was my only one – it would be just as special as it is winning my fourth.”

Cédric Pioline: “Are you going to celebrate it tonight?”

Maria Sharapova: “Oh yeah! [laughing]”


Errani’s press-conference

ITV4 televised the following excerpt from Errani’s press-conference.

Sara Errani: “Well, I start very bad. With this player, if you give her like some games like this in the beginning, of course, they are more relaxed. It was very difficult for me to play. She play very good, I think. She play very like this [Errani put her hands out like a witch casting a spell], so for me, it was difficult to start the point where I want to play the point. In the first two or three balls, she played very good. The serve, receive, so... I couldn’t arrive to play on the game that I want to play, so... for that.”


Maria’s ITV interview

Celina Hinchcliffe: “Maria, four years ago, when you had what, for most athletes, was a career-ending injury, did you ever imagine you’d be making an acceptance speech in French at Roland Garros?”

Maria Sharapova: “I never... I mean: I believed that one day, I could get to that stage, and obviously play at Roland Garros, compete – and I’ve been to a couple of semi-finals – but to actually believe that you’re holding the trophy, I don’t know; I’m not quite sure. So, to achieve it, it’s pretty special.

Celina Hinchcliffe: “How does it compare to your other Grand Slams?”

Maria Sharapova: “Well, very different. It’s a different time in my career. Each one is very special. Tough to compare them, but I always thought the first one will be the most memorable one for me – it just came so unexpected. But then, when I fell down to my knees, I thought, ‘This is pretty unreal,’ so I’m going to say this one.”

Celina Hinchcliffe: “You mentioned earlier that you spoke to your parents after your win, and their reaction made me laugh. Tell us.”

Maria Sharapova: “I spoke to my dad, and he was riding on his bicycle, and he said, ‘Yeah, congratulations, talk later.’ And the wind was all like behind him. My mum was like very happy, of course, but then she said, ‘You have only three or four days to think about it and enjoy it, and then you gotta get back to work.’ And that’s pretty much the philosophy of my family [laughing]: you’ve got to get back on the horse and keep working hard, and Wimbledon’s just around the corner.”

Celina Hinchcliffe: “Well, enjoy your days off.”

Maria Sharapova: “Yes, thank you.”

--
Dr. Andrew Broad
__________________
My Eternal Fanship: 1. Monica Seles; 2. Мария Шарапова (‘Maria Sharapova’); 3. Daniela Hantuchová; 4. Jelena Dokić; 5. Iva Majoli; 6. Karina Habšudová; 7. Вера Звонарёва (‘Vera Zvonarëva’); 8. Nicole Vaidišová; 9. Анна Чакветадзе (‘Anna Chakvetadze’); 10. Lucie Šafářová; 11. Ирода Туляганова (‘Iroda Tulyaganova’); 12. Magdaléna Rybáriková; 13. Sabine Lisicki

Last edited by andrewbroad : Jun 6th, 2013 at 12:50 AM. Reason: edit Title
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