PARIS, June 8 — It was little wonder Maria Sharapova’s jubilant coach was holding aloft his index finger yesterday as the Russian enjoyed a double celebration after sweeping into her maiden French Open final.
Not only did her 6-3 6-3 defeat of Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova allow her to move within two sets of fulfilling her dream of completing a career grand slam but, after a four-year wait, she was finally back on top of the world.
Whether on not Sharapova becomes the newest member of the Roland Garros champions’ club when she takes on Italian outsider Sara Errani tomorrow, the statuesque Russian’s name will be on top of the WTA rankings list on Monday.
“A few years ago I don’t know if I even had a ranking after having my shoulder surgery (in August 2008) and it’s special to be back on top again,” a beaming Sharapova told the crowd.
Four years after not knowing whether she would ever be able to compete at the highest level again, or even come close to winning any titles let alone a grand slam, Sharapova opened her slender shoulders wide to blow away Kvitova.
The 22-year-old was bidding to become the first Czech woman to reach the final since Hana Mandlikova won the title for Czechoslovakia in 1981.
But she stood no chance against a woman who has never been afraid to show her iron will in the face of adversity.
The swirling winds on Philippe Chatrier Court made life difficult for both players initially, with Sharapova facing break points on both of her opening service games but it was Kvitova who blinked first.
The Czech left-hander rates her forehand and her serve as her strongest weapons. Unfortunately both were misfiring yesterday.
Two sloppy forehand errors handed Sharapova the break in the fifth game and the Russian barely needed to move off the baseline as she watched Kvitova implode while trying to stay alive in the set.
The fourth seed was broken to love, a forehand into the tramlines on set point summing up the kind of day she was having.
Her day went from bad to worse as she dropped serve for a third time, this time with a double fault, to go 1-3 down in the second set.
She managed to show some fight to level for 3-3 but Sharapova kept on pounding winners from the baseline to break for 5-3 before wrapping up the one-sided contest in 77 minutes with an ace.
“What an amazing feeling,” Sharapova said after notching up her eighth win in nine matches against left-handers in 2012.
“I’ve been in the semi-finals three times and always dreamed to be in the final and finally I have that opportunity.” — Reuters