A few years ago, in the midst of a serious shoulder injury, Maria Sharapova wondered if she would ever play professional tennis at a high level again. A three time Major winner, who in 2004 at the ripe age of 17 stunned 2-time defending Wimbledon champion Serena Williams to take her first Major, Sharapova followed her shoulder surgery with a journey back that was full of lots of ups and downs. Honestly, along the way I saw her lose some matches that made me wonder if she would ever reach the tennis summit again. Boy, was I wrong. After some rocky performances over the last few years, Masha has reached the final of 3 of the last 4 Majors. She reached the final of both “mini-Majors” this year, Indian Wells and Miami. She won in Stuttgart, beating then-number 1 Victoria Azarenka and came into Roland Garros 2012 off a title in Rome, beating Li Na. It would be her decisive 6-3 6-3 victory over 2011 WTA Player of the Year and Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the Roland Garros semifinals that would make her journey back to the top of the tennis world complete.
However, Masha would be the first to tell you that the big prize has not been won, the 2012 Roland Garros title. A win in the final would earn Sharapova the career Grand Slam. Standing in her way is clay court ace Sara Errani. Before they start engraving Masha’s name on the trophy, remember that Errani’s countrywoman Francesca Schiavone was a big underdog going into the Roland Garros 2010 final against Samantha Stosur but finished that day with the trophy. Sara beat Samantha in three sets, 7-5 1-6 6-3, to earn her shot at Sharapova. And Sara can win the title. That is not to say Masha isn’t the heavy favorite. She is. But Errani has three clay court titles this year and basically is playing with house money. If she can mix up her attack and take Masha out of her rhythm, especially by making Masha run to test her movement, anything can happen. Adding to the intrigue of what might happen is the fact that they have never played an official match against each other. Do I expect Masha to win. Yes, I do. Would it shock me if Sara won? No, it would not.