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Preview of women's singles final at the 2012 French Open: Maria Sharapova vs. Sara Errani

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)

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13 thoughts on “Preview of women's singles final at the 2012 French Open: Maria Sharapova vs. Sara Errani

  1. Omair

    This is Sharapova's tournament to loose, if the demons that haunted Sharapova in her 4th round match come back in the final, she might not stand a chance against Errani! But I think she will be extremely motivated to win this one!

  2. Gage

    But out of her 26 double faults, 12 came in her fourth round. And to be frank, the weather during her fourth round was awful. I think the wind surprised her at first, and that's why she struggled. She learned from that match and played smart tennis today. Vamos Maria!

  3. JohnnyB

    I love your analysis. I picked Maria to win the French for the simple reason that her game is back to top form and she has the will to win. But I wasn't the only one to pick Maria – the majority of the very informed WTB fans also picked her, NOT Serena to win. (see below) Therefore, I disagree with your comment everyone would pick Serena in the bottom half of the draw.

    Maria Sharapova (41%, 295 Votes)Serena Williams (21%, 149 Votes)Other (11%, 76 Votes)Agnieszka Radwanska (9%, 67 Votes)Victoria Azarenka (6%, 44 Votes)Petra Kvitova (5%, 37 Votes)Li Na (4%, 32 Votes)Angelique Kerber (3%, 18 Votes)

    Maria if you read this – please invite me to your wedding. Please!!

  4. Ferondi

    Congratulations to Maria Sharapova :)…..

    I am just so extremely happy to see her win the match against Kvitova. Both Sharapova and Errani run a fairy-tale journey in this year's Roland Garros and I guess Sharapova has to win this one to complete her journey whereas I feel that Errani has kind of completed hers already. I mean, she has achieved so many milestones and it would only be nice and fair for both of them if Sharapova wins the title. In the end, I know both will still be two happy grateful players.

    What a great tournament. I really enjoy it.

  5. Omair

    JohnnyB: Thanks for the appreciation :)

    and I was talking about the tennis experts on various tennis sites, who had done the analysis of the draw when the draw was released. Most of them had Serena Williams as the bottom half finalist!

  6. Marine

    I picked Errani as one of the underdogs to watch for but I would not expect that she would do this well.

    I think Sharapova should win however Errani could surprise yet again.

  7. Liz

    I think this will be an easy win for MaSha. But I hope it will be a nice match :-) Let us be entertained ;)

  8. Dusan

    Maria in straight sets…Sara is a good player and consistent,but she can't match Maria's power and accuracy. :)

  9. Marija Post author

    John, but don't forget the the poll is still open and when Serena lost in R1 people started voting for the second favorite – Sharapova. In the beginning, Serena was the leader as I remember.

  10. astrid

    i pick maria in any conditions. he he he.. errani is a good mover but how could u move and think while u have to hit the hard & deep ball from maria? qeqeqe.. GO MARIA!!

  11. James

    A great preview, Omair!

    I have to go with the general consensus that Sharapova will win in straight sets. Errani has had a fabulous tournament and already has a title to take home having won the doubles with Roberta Vinci today so hopefully she can go out and give it her best tomorrow…

  12. Mayank

    hey well apart from the maria being the gorgeous lady on thus planet and ihave never seen a Beauty

    on this planet having a Lot of Skills along being a

    Tennis player

    That's Awsome.

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