by: Tom Cochrane

Maria Sharapova is the French Open women’s champion for 2012, the Russian capturing her first title at Roland Garros and completing a career Grand Slam in the process.

Day 14 Recap

Going into the final, Sharapova had a lot more experience at this stage of majors than her opponent, and that experience seemed to count in the early stages, as Sharapova raced out to a 4-0 love in the opening set. Errani seemed a little overwhelmed by the occasion, as a focused Sharapova executed well off both wings.

Errani finally got on the board, much to the delight of the French crowd eager for a contest. The Italian won 3 of the last 5 games of the first set, as she started to move better around the court and began to force the Russian into longer rallies from the baseline. But with her confidence up after claiming the first set, and with the finish line now in sight, the second seeded Sharapova again jumped out to a commanding lead early in the set.

Errani was unable to play her best tennis on the big points, and after losing a couple of tight games, the Italian found herself down a double break at 4-1 in the second set. Showing some of the tenacity that took her to the final, Errani managed to get one of the breaks back, but at 5-2 Sharapova had the chance to serve it out, and on her third match point the Russian managed to do so, dropping to her knees to celebrate what she later described as the “most unique moment in her career”.

For Errani, it wasn’t her best display of tennis for the tournament, but having won the doubles and made the singles final with a magnificent run, it was still an incredible fortnight for the Italian. For Sharapova, it’s perhaps her most important victory, showing her fans and competitors alike that she is still a major force to be reckoned with in the women’s game, 8 years after winning her first major title.

Match of the Day – Day 15

Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal

The top two players in the men’s game go head to head in today’s men’s final, with each player looking to create his own piece of history. Nadal is looking to win his seventh French Open title, which would put him one clear of Bjorn Borg for the most number of singles titles at Roland Garros. Holder of the Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open titles, Djokovic is riding a 27 match Grand Slam winning streak and is looking to become the first man since Rod Laver to hold all 4 major titles at one time.

Djokovic had Nadal’s measure last year, beating the Spaniard in all of their meetings, including finals at Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows. A loss to Federer in the semi-finals in Paris meant Djokovic didn’t get the chance to take on Nadal at last year’s French Open, allowing the second seed to claim his solitary Grand Slam for last year.

This year started in a similar fashion to last year, with Djokovic winning another Australian Open and defeating Nadal in another Grand Slam final. But Nadal claimed a pair of critical wins on clay following that final, beating the world number one in straight sets in Monte Carlo and in Rome. Those wins will give the Spaniard some much-needed confidence, although he now needs to translate those victories into a win in a best of 5 sets match.

At the moment, Djokovic has complete and utter belief in his abilities and in his way to find a path to victory no matter what the score is in any given match. He showed those qualities in fighting wins over Seppi and Tsonga, and the top seed also knows that he has something of a mental hold over Nadal in Grand Slam play.

But while Djokovic’s form has been inconsistent over the fortnight in Paris, Nadal’s form has been consistently spectacular. The Spaniard hasn’t lost a set so far, demolishing clay-court stars Monaco, Almagro and Ferrer en route to the final. Djokovic will look to force Nadal back behind the baseline and will target the Spaniard’s weaker backhand side.

So far in the tournament though, no one has been able to put the 6-time French Open champion onto the defensive for more than a moment. This is Nadal’s favourite tournament on his favourite surface, and in his current run of rare form, I’ll back the second seed to grind out the win. Nadal in 4.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve to wrap up the men’s final tomorrow.


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