PARIS (Reuters) - Maria Sharapova was crowned the new queen of Roland Garros after she kept her poise to outwit and outpower diminutive Italian Sara Errani 6-3 6-2 to complete her collection of grand slam trophies on Saturday.
Despite the one-sided scoreline, Italian Errani troubled Sharapova with some cute volleys, sliced forehands, daring dropshots but found the Russian to be an insurmountable obstacle.
With Errani standing at just 1.64 metres, the statuesque Russian used her 24 cms advantage and wider wingspan to great effect as she chased down everything the Italian could throw at her.
She wrapped up victory when Errani ended a prolonged rally by dumping a backhand into the net, allowing Sharapova to become the 10th woman to complete a career grand slam after she added the Paris title to her triumphs at Wimbledon (2004), U.S. Open (2006) and Australian Open (2008).
The French Open win capped a remarkable comeback for Sharapova after many thought her career was all but over when she underwent shoulder surgery in 2008.
Having waited four years to climb back into the grand slam winner’s circle, it was little wonder the 25-year-old dropped to her knees and covered her face in disbelief in her moment of triumph.
But this was no time for the queen of women’s tennis, who will also climb back to the top of the rankings on Monday, to hide her face.
A beaming Sharapova, still on her knees, tilted her head skywards and lapped up the applause from the hollering fans with outstretched arms.
Even when the on-court announcer accidentally asked the crowd to cheer for “runner-up Maria Sharapova”, the smile could not be wiped off her face.
Errani, who had been left sobbing after her remarkable fortnight ended one victory short, pumped her arms as if to say “Yes, Yes, Yes, I am actually the champion”.
During the 89-minute contest though, there was only one winner.
“It’s a magnificent moment in my career. I‘m really speechless. I have had such a journey to get to this stage,” Sharapova told the crowd as she showed off her multi-lingual skills by speaking in English, French, Spanish and Russian during her victory speech.
”It took me many years to get to this stage, eight years ago was my breakthrough.
“I‘m so happy to share this moment with you all. I cannot wait to be back. To be here and win this, even if it was my only grand slam, it would be just as special as if it was my fourth.”
If Errani needed any reminder about the tall order she faced on Saturday, all she had to do was to look up at Sharapova as the Russian towered over her while they stood together at the net during the official pre-match photograph.
Even Martina Navratilova had called it a “bad match-up” and on paper it certainly was.
Sharapova was the winner of three grand slam titles while Errani had never reached a major final before. In fact before this year, the 25-year-old from Bologna had won only one match at Roland Garros.
Predictions of a mis-match certainly did not seem wide off the mark during the opening exchanges.
Errani, bidding to become the lowest women’s seed at 21 to win the title in the professional era, was in danger of suffering a whitewash when Sharapova sprinted to a 4-0 lead within 15 minutes.
But just when the fans thought they were about to witness the first blowout since Steffi Graf beat Natasha Zvereva 6-0 6-0 in the 1988 final, Errani started to produce the kind of shots that helped her to knock out three grand slam champions here.
She raised a huge roar in the stands when she broke Sharapova in the fifth game and then caught out the Russian with some cute angled volleys and delectable dropshots.
Errani also dragged Sharapova into rallys often extending to over 20 shots, and the Italian even managed to dodge two set points on her serve in the eighth game.
Sharapova smacked a service return into the net on the first and could only watch in wonder as Errani drilled a spectacular forehand winner on the next.
However, the Russian second seed was determined to live up to her top billing and won the set on the next game by belting a backhand winner down the line.
The second set started like the first, with Sharapova breaking before romping to a 4-1 lead.
But the Italian was determined not to go out without a fight and remained undaunted even when Sharapova brought up her first match point by hitting a brilliant forehand on the run.
She forced Sharapova into a forehand error to get back to deuce, then earned a break point by snaring Sharapova with a dropshot.
Sharapova hit back with a thunderbolt backhand winner and after seeing another matchpoint evaporate with yet another Errani dropshot, she brought up a third with an ace.
This time she made no mistake.
Editing by John Mehaffey