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Serena hits her stride, cruises into final against Sharapova

June 6, 2013 04:47 PM
Serena Williams has not lost to Maria Sharapova, her opponent in Saturday's French Open women's singles final, since 2004.
By Matt Cronin, special to USTA.com
Paris – There is nothing like being completely steamrolled in the semifinals of a major to give a competitor a cold splash of reality.
That is what happened to 2012 Roland Garros finalist Sara Errani on Thursday in Paris, when Serena Williams zoned on her and came away with a 6-0, 6-1 victory.
Errani is one of the few Top 20 players who can legitimately be called a clay courter, but her quickness, heavy topspin and sweet drop shots didn't mean a thing on a day when Williams smoked 40 winners in the 52 points she won. Serena only committed only 12 unforced errors in a blink-of-an-eye 46-minute match, winning 28 of her 33 service points and eight of her 10 points at the net.
"What she did today is unbelievable," Errani said. "She's very strong. She's [an] unbelievable player. She had a great day. I tried. This is sport. Sometimes you lose. Also, you can see you have nothing to do."
Errani is now 0-6 against Williams, who also thumped her in the semis of the 2012 US Open. She has been able to trouble other elite players before on clay, but not Serena, who consistently beat her to the punch. Afterward, Errani seemed unsure of how she is ever going to be able to beat the world No. 1.
"If she had one bad day, yes," the Italian said with a smile. "You have to think to do your best, for sure. You have to have one of your best days and you have to try to think that she can have a bad day. Like that, you can try to win."
Trying is one thing and executing is another entirely. Serena has now won 30 consecutive matches, including title runs in Miami, Charleston, Madrid and Rome. She was pushed very hard in her quarterfinal against 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, winning 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, but other than that, she has cruised through her other five matches, losing only 11 games total.
Serena said her win against Errani was one of her best matches ever at major.
Now the 31-year-old will go into her 20th Grand Slam final as a substantial favorite against defending champion Maria Sharapova, who hasn't beaten her since 2004. Since that time, Williams has vanquished Sharapova 12 straight times, including in 2013 in Doha, Miami and Madrid. Sharapova did manage to win the first set of their clash in the Miami final, but then was bageled in the third set.
"I'd be lying if it doesn't bother me," Sharapova said of her losing streak against Williams. "I don't think that it would be a pretty competitive statement if I said I didn't. I would love to change that around Obviously, whatever I did in the past hasn't worked, so I'll have to try to do something different and hopefully it will. I'm proud of the way that I came through this tournament. I have given myself a chance to face the favorite."
The pair has never faced off at Roland Garros, where Sharapova has won 13 consecutive matches, but that may not matter as Williams has been able to take down Sharapova on big show courts on every surface. The Russian is going to have execute extremely well and give Williams a few different looks if she is to defend her title on Saturday.
"A lot of what I have or possess has helped me get to the stage where I am today,’ Sharapova said. "Of course, I have lost to her numerous amounts of times. When I go out there, whatever I have done, in the past, has not worked. You try to go out there and do something different, because whatever you have done just hasn't performed well. I hope that I can."
Serena was unusually quiet in her post match press conference, rarely joking around. She hasn't won the Roland Garros title since 2002, and she said that she is super focused now and does not want to get distracted. The 15-time Grand Slam champion has gone into other majors as the favorite and has not come out the winner, like at the 2013 Australian Open, when Sloane Stephens upset her. Despite her excellent showing thus far, Serena knows she is walking a tightrope and could lose her form.
"That can happen on any day," she said. "That's why every day that I'm doing well I try to do the best I can. And when I'm not, I just try to fight through it, because my forehand, my backhand, my serve, anything could happen."
But none of this is old hat to Williams. And when she walks out to face Sharapova on Philippe Chatrier court, she’ll still have the same pre-match jitters and excitement that she had back in 2002, when she took down her sister Venus for the title.
"Oh, it will really feel special," said Serena. "It will be a great match I think for both of us. We both are doing so well and we both just really want to win. We're both really excited to be this far. So I think it's just going to be a great match."
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And for more Pro Tennis coverage, including coverage of Americans at the 2013 French Open, go to the USTA.com Pro Tennis page


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