After finishing a busy exam period, Omair, Women's Tennis Blog's well-known contributor specialized in stats, jotted down a statistical preview of the women's singles final at the 2012 French Open – Maria Sharapova vs. Sara Errani. Can the numbers reveal the Saturday's winner? Let's see!
If you asked a pick for Roland Garros finalist from the bottom half of the draw this year, everyone would have answered Serena Williams, given her record on clay this year – she had not lost a match coming into Roland Garros and in doing so she defeated Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka, the world No.2 and world No.1 respectively, in straight sets. Very few people believed in Sharapova's chances as Williams was in her quarter of the draw and Sharapova has always struggled against Williams. But, Williams lost in the first round to Virginie Razzano! Sharapova let her racquet do the talking, and here she is in her first ever Roland Garros final. She had been to the semifinals of Roland Garros twice before this year, falling to Ana Ivanovic in 2007 and Li Na in 2011. The Russian made it third time lucky and now she is having the chance to become only the sixth player in the Open Era to have won all Grand Slams at least once.
No one, not even a single person talked about Sara Errani, who when entering this year's Roland Garros was the claycourt wins leader this year, and her only losses on clay (other than her Fed Cup match where she retired against Lesia Tsurenko) came at the hands of world No.3 Agnieszka Radwanska in Madrid and world No.5 Samantha Stosur in Rome. She was in Radwanska's quarter of the draw, the toughest draw any player could have (with two former Roland Garros champions and three Top 10 players). The toughest draw, her dismal record against Top 10 players (0-28, before her Roland Garros quarterfinal victory) and the fact that she had never even made it to the third round at Roland Garros in her past four appearances all spoke in her disadvantage, but here she is, in the final of her first Grand Slam.
Entering the final, Errani's 2012 win-loss record is 35-10, while Sharapova is 35-5 this year. Surprisingly, the two have never faced each other before!
Sharapova's losses this year have come at the hands of Victoria Azarenka, Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber and Serena Williams, but Sharapova has not been the sharpest in the finals of Grand Slams lately. She was heavy favorite in the final against Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon last year, and then against Azarenka at Australian Open this year, but she lost both times, in straight sets. So what is the similarity here? Both Kvitova and Azarenka were first-time Grand Slam finalists, so is Errani, however, there is one difference, both Kvitova and Azarenka had made the semis of Grand Slams before that, while Errani has not (her best previous Grand Slam result was a quarterfinal showing at this year's Australian Open).
Errani's road to the final has been full of milestones she has been setting, entering into the third round and fourth round clashes and then her quarterfinal and semifinal matches, Errani was 0-2 against Ana Ivanovic, 0-5 against Svetlana Kuznetsova, 0-1 against Angelique Kerber (and more importantly 0-28 against Top 10 players), and 0-5 against Stosur respectively. She overcome all of these odds and obstacles in making her fairy tale continue.
Sharapova also set some milestones of her own, she made it to her first Roland Garros final and in doing so she regained the top spot for the first time in four years, since she last held it before her shoulder injury.
Will Sharapova crumble again letting Errani complete her Cinderella story, or will Sharapova crush the Italian to complete her Grand Slam collection? Let the numbers do the talking:
* An average of more than four per match, which means that she loses her serve at least once due to her double faults.
Errani only leads Sharapova in the double faults department, the rest of the stats go in Maria's favor. Good first serve percentage of Errani is neutralised by the percentage of points won on the first serve. Errani's second serve is a liability which shows in her stats as well, she has merely won 39% of the points played on her second serve, and given that Sharapova is a great returner, Errani will be in trouble.
Errani is a great mover and very quick, Sharapova's movement on clay is still questionable, though it has tremendously improved. Sharapova is a great hitter and she can hit through anyone, and she will try to hit Errani off-court as well, Errani on the other hand mixes shots very well and keeps her unforced errors well under control. If Errani can move Sharapova around and forward, she will have a chance, however if she goes into rallies without moving her around, she will be blown off the court.
Sharapova is no stranger to the big stages, Errani, however, is into her first Slam final and may get nervous, though she managed her nerves very well in putting away Stosur's challenge, but being in the final of a major for the first time is a whole different story. Sharapova has been very solid throughout the tournament, her only wobble coming in her fourth round victory over Klara Zakopalova. Sharapova is due for her first Roland Garros, but who knows Errani has other plans? Only time will tell us.
My pick: Sharapova in straight sets. What do you think? (photos: © Neal Trousdale)