Originally posted at TennisBloggers.com I typically write Week Reviews and other fun stuff over there. There are tons of excellent articles by many other fantastic writers there as well, so make sure to read. Follow along at @TennisBloggers
The headlines have already been written. Sharapova returns to the number 1 ranking after moving into the Roland Garros final, the one major title she has yet to win. In a sense, the headlines have already been written. A career slam and the number one ranking has a chance to put a book end on wild era of the WTA where players can be slam champions one week and footnotes of a draw the next. In a time when major WTA icons fade away and retire, Sharapova, still young, remains a figure of stability and dominance.
These headlines may very well be written.
Ask Ivanovic, Kuznetsova and Stosur about headlines.
Sometimes players only get one chance at their ultimate dream. Who knows what the future holds for Sara Errani, but this may be the only chance she gets. Sharapova will be the overwhelming favourite, and the spotlight will be on her for the 2012 edition of the Roland Garros final. She has come in the favourite to her past two major finals, 2011 Wimbledon and 2012 Australian Open, but was overwhelmed by big hitting Kvitova and Azarenka who looked completely unfazed as all eyes were on them.
This will give Errani hope. She has continually flown under the radar, beating three slam winners on the way (two of them having won Roland Garros) and hitting her stride at the right time. For me, she has looked less like the scrambler of old, and more a figure of consistency. I have made several allusions to Ferrer through out the week, and I stand by them. She might not have the supreme focus of Ferrer, but she is not far off. She makes incredibly smart, high percentage shots. Instead of simply getting back the ball and outlasting the opponent, she has used the surface to her advantage to push opponents off balance, and then take the necessary time it requires to finish off points. She has also alluded to a new, longer length racquet, which she feels has helped her compete at a higher level. Watching her push balls deep and go toe to toe with big hitters, it is hard not to agree.
Regardless, Sharapova must remain the overwhelming favourite. With a revamped and now effective serve she has found her confidence. With confidence has come movement, and with movement has come an increasingly impressive power game that is effective on all surfaces, even clay. She has at times ground opponents into a pulp, and the ability to use a vintage big serve and massive forehand follow up have left opponents struggling for answers.
Sharapova’s strategy will likely be the exact same as it has been all week. Crush the serve, follow it up, and push out wide to throw opponents off while moving forward with necessary. This should and will work well. Sharapova will need to continue her serving consistency, where much of her overall consistency stems from. When she is comfortable on serve, she is able to really go for it on the return, where she is particularly dangerous. With the number 1 ranking already secured, there is a real possibility that Sharapova will shrug off the pressure and run away with this final. At the same time, if the confidence and the serve go, Errani will be more than ready to pounce.
Patience is key for Errani. She has played some big hitters, but no one quite as devastating and flat as Sharapova so far. With the pressure on, Errani must find herself on serve some 6 games in. 3-3 in the first set would be a massive win for Errani. From there she must try to push Sharapova off balance and use her craft. Simply returning under the pressure of the moment will not be enough. Slices, drop shots, and fearless defense will take things to the next level and combat the overwhelming power of Sharapova. Errani is naturally the underdog, style wise, but with some doubt in Sharapova’s mind, she has a legitimate chance of dragging this match out and becoming the second Italian champion of this tournament in three years. It has to be said, it would be one of the most surprising major titles we have ever seen in the Open Era, both on the men’s and women’s side.
Two completely different storylines and two completely different styles. Enjoy the final, everyone.