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French Open

Sharapova to face Errani in French Open final

June 7, 2012 11:41 AM
Sara Errani celebrates her semifinal victory over Sam Stosur.
Maria Sharapova plays a backhand in her semifinal match against Petra Kvitova.

PARIS (AP) -- Maria Sharapova reached her first French Open final and reclaimed the No. 1 ranking by beating fourth-seeded Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-3 Thursday, moving one victory from completing a career Grand Slam.

The second-seeded Sharapova lost her two previous Roland Garros semifinals. She'll face 21st-seeded Sara Errani of Italy on Saturday with a chance to add to major championships she won at Wimbledon in 2004, the US Open in 2006, and the Australian Open in 2008. Sharapova would be the 10th woman with a title from each major.

Sharapova lost to Kvitova in last year's Wimbledon final, and to Victoria Azarenka in the Australian Open final in January. That propelled Azarenka to No. 1, but Sharapova will return to that spot for the first time since 2008, no matter what happens Saturday.

Errani said she had no words to describe her surprise at reaching the French Open final.

The player she beat, Samantha Stosur, was probably every bit as shocked.

Errani, the 21st-seeded Italian, advanced to her first Grand Slam final Thursday after overcoming a poor second set for a 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 victory over No. 6 seed Stosur. The US Open champion hardly looked like the savvy veteran as this match came down the stretch.

Stosur committed 48 unforced errors - 27 more than Errani - in a match that shifted between sunny to windy to cloudy after starting more than an hour late because of rain.

After the win - her first in six tries against Stosur - Errani dropped her racket and fell to her back and onto the damp clay. A few moments later, she stood up and covered her head with her hands as she looked up to her player guest box, where there was a joyous mix of smiles and tears.

''It's incredible for me,'' Errani said. ''I didn't expect it, and I'm here. So, I don't know what to say.''

The victory gives Errani not one, but two dates in the French Open finals. In singles, she'll play the winner of Thursday's second semifinal, between No. 2 Maria Sharapova and No. 4 Petra Kvitova. Errani is also teaming with Roberta Vinci in doubles, and they'll play Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova for that title.

Errani is the first woman since Kim Clijsters in 2003 to make the finals of both singles and doubles at the French Open. She has a chance to become the first woman to win both since Mary Pierce in 2000.

Stosur was trying to capture her second Grand Slam in the last three, but the Aussie who hit a relentless array of punishing shots against Serena Williams in the final at Flushing Meadows last year suddenly lost her composure.

After blowing away Errani in the second set, she came out for the third a completely different player. She made 21 unforced errors in the final set, many of the shots flying five, 10 feet past the baseline.

''I was very nervous, but on the same time, I was really focused on the game,'' Errani said. ''Maybe she had more pressure.''

Knowing she needed simply to keep chasing and getting balls back, Errani played good defense and made only six unforced errors. On her third break point at 4-3 in the third, Errani got a ball back and Stosur flew a forehand long.

Errani then served out the final game at love and fell to the clay.

''I didn't expect that,'' she said. ''I can't believe it.''

Many of her serves spun in at the 70-80 mph range. She finished the match with no aces, compared to 11 for Stosur, and set aside the thought, at least for one day, that power players with power games are the only ones who win Grand Slam tournaments.

Errani stands only 5-foot-4 and doesn't pound the ball by any means. But her style is working. Entering Roland Garros, she was 0-28 against opponents in the top 10.

Now, she has back-to-back wins against No. 10 Angelique Kerber and No. 6 Stosur, along with victories over past French Open champions Ana Ivanovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova. Which means Errani, too, will reach the top 10 when the next rankings come out.

''Maybe my problem always was that I couldn't believe too much to win with the strong players,'' she said. ''But now I beat three in a row. I'm in the final in a Grand Slam. So I have to maybe try to think a bit different.''

 

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