Our stats contributor Omair analysed the women's tennis French Open final between Maria Sharapova and Sara Errani before the match and now he's back with a post-match analysis. As you'll see, Omair's predictions translated into the final!
Maria Sharapova walked onto the court with the determined and focused look on her face, or it would be more appropriate to say the look of a champion. History was calling, and Sharapova was responding, screaming at every point, fist pumping on winning them, striking the ball cleanly and with supreme authority. Sara Errani, on the other hand, seemed nervous when she walked on to the court, which showed in her opening games as well.
Sharapova had two straight-set losses in her last two major final appearances, at Wimbledon last year at the hands of Petra Kvitova, and at Australian Open this year at the hands of Victoria Azarenka, both of whom were first-time Grand Slam finalists. Sharapova made it third time lucky, with history on the line, she was not to be denied by yet another first-time finalist.
Errani was in a dream of her own, having recorded her first wins over Ana Ivanovic, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Angelique Kerber and Sam Stosur, and to add to that having recorded her first ever Top 10 win (in the quarterfinals over Kerber) in 29 tries, and backing it up with another Top 10 win in the semis (against Stosur), making it her first Slam semifinal and then final. She was hoping to complete her dream run by laying her hands on the coveted trophy, however, her opponent had other plans for her.
Sharapova started the match brilliantly, and helped by Errani's nervousness raced out to 4-0, before Errani got herself together to break Sharapova at love and hold her own serve to close the gap to 4-2. Sharapova held her nerve and serve to go up 5-2. Errani saved two set points in her service game before holding to force Sharapova to serve for the set, and serve she did taking the first set 6-3. Second set started in almost identical fashion with Sharapova building a 4-1 lead before Errani broke back to make it 4-2, but Sharapova responded likewise breaking her opponent at 15 to give herself a chance for the championship. The final game was indeed the best one, with Errani saving two match points, one courtesy of Sharapova's long forehand and the other with a perfect drop shot, and Sharapova saving a break point with an incredible cross-court backhand. Sharapova made it third time lucky, and completed her coveted career slam when a backhand from Errani landed into the net.
SARA ERRANI STATS
Errani's serve has never been a force, and with a returner as great as Sharapova, Errani was bound to pay for it. As I had mentioned in the preview that Sharapova would punish Errani's both first and second serve, Sharapova did just that, as is evident from the stats, Errani's first serve winning percentage fell by 15% in comparison to the average of her previous six matches.
MARIA SHARAPOVA STATS
Sharapova's better return helped her exploit Errani's weak serve, and she kept her numbers clean and better than Errani's.
Another important statistic was the winners-unforced errors differential. Sharapova made 29 unforced errors which were almost thrice of Errani's unforced errors (11), but Sharapova's winners, being 37, were more than thrice of Errani's winners (12). Errani ended the match with a +1 differential, but it faded in front of Sharapova's +8 differential.
Sharapova became only the sixth player in the Open Era, and 10th player overall to win the career slam. Maurine Conolly (1953), Margaret Court (1970) and Steffi Graf (1988) won all four in the same year, while Martina Navratilova (1983-4) and Serena Williams (2002-3) held all four at one spread over two seasons. Doris Hart, Shirley Fry, Billie Jean King and Chris Evert are the others with a career slam.
Sharapova winning the French Open title has made it six different women winning last six Grand Slams, starting from the Australian Open 2011 (Kim Clijsters, Li Na, Petra Kvitova, Samantha Stosur, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova). Sharapova has been the most dominant player lately in terms of Grand Slams, she has made it to the semis or better of four of the last five majors she played, making it to the semifinals here last year, final at Wimbledon last year, final at Australian Open this year and now winning French Open this year. Will Sharapova continue her Grand Slam success or will the newcomers threaten again? Let us wait and watch Wimbledon unfold, until then we have a truly deserving and multiple Grand Slam winner world No.1. (photos: Ralf Reinecke, © Neal Trousdale)