Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova continued with her fighting victories in the last three crucial matches at Roland Garros and won her second French Open title in three years. All through the week, Sharapova has played three-setters, often with the prospect of yielding to her opponents but her tenacity served her every time and she progressed from one stage to another. In her final against another fighter from Romania on Saturday, Sharapova went through all the shaky moments in her game and claimed the coveted clay-court crown. The fourth seeded doughty Simona Halep had to yield to the Russian 4-6, 7-6, 4-6 despite playing a great game.
In one of the most error-prone finals, the two players thrived more by breaking one another, instead of holding their service games. Then there were double faults and unforced errors in a relatively larger numbers, not often seen in tennis major finals. This inconsistency in holding their serves was evident from 16 combined breaks of serve in the match, highlighted by 5 breaks in the last 10 games of the final set. At one point, Sharapova and Halep traded 6 service breaks in a row, beginning with the last four games of the second set followed by two games in the third. Sharapova’s struggle with her serve has continued all through the week and she was lucky to survive regardless. The Saturday crowd in Court Philippe Chatrier was aghast at watching Sharapova committing no less than 12 double-faults in the course of the match. A number of experts believe that Sharapova’s inconsistency with her service could have been caused by the right shoulder surgery that she was forced to undergo in 2008. Until then, she had won the Wimbledon in 2004, US Open in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008. But amazingly, her victories at Roland Garros have come subsequently.
The match began with Sharapova losing her opening game. But in this crucial match, Sharapova probably didn’t want to lose the first set, as has been the case in her immediately preceding matches. She worked hard to raise the level of her play and broke Halep three times. The Russian attacked Halep with her groundstrokes forcing the Romanian into committing errors, before taking the first set 6-4 in 57 minutes.
Halep was charged up in the second set, since she didn’t want to give up easily. She pinned Sharapova with an improvement in her game and at 5-4, she was serving for the second set. But the Russian broke her to level 5-5, only to lose her serve again to allow Halep another opportunity. But as the Romanian served for the set at 6-5, she lost her serve again and the set went to the tie-break. Sharapova had a great chance as she led 5-3 in the tie-break. It was a comic spectacle for the crowd to see the two finalists unable to hold on, when it mattered most. In the meanwhile the doughty Halep found an opening and closed the tie-break in her favor.
The first two games of the final set were breaks of serves again. After two hours of toil on red clay, both players were exhausted. Sharapova also got a time-violation warning. Later, Halep was the first to hold her serve in the set with Sharapova doing the same. Mid-way through the set, however, there was another exchange of service breaks. At 4-4 on Halep’s serve, Sharapova broke to take the 5-4 lead and then playing her best game, closed the set at love. The lanky Russian then dropped to her knees to allow the realization of big victory to sink in.
The Philippe Chatrier crowd had a lot to celebrate after the women single’s final, when their countrymen Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin won the men’s doubles 6-3, 7-6, defeating Spaniards Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez. On a lovely sunny day, the Frenchmen’s victory over the Spaniards sent the crowd into raptures.
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