Shoulder surgery. A rebuilt serve. A long climb back filled with doubters and shake your head losses. All of those things were washed away as Maria Sharapova fell to her knees on the terre battue of Roland Garros and lifted her hands toward the heavens, her comeback story reaching its fruition. Masha completed her career Grand Slam by defeating the game Sara Errani in the 2012 Roland Garros final, 6-3 6-2. She becomes the 6th woman in the Open Era to achieve the career Grand Slam and the 10th woman overall. In the Open Era, she joins Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams. Prior to the Open Era she also joins Maureen “Little Mo” Connolly, Shirley Fry and Billie Jean King. One day in the future, Masha will join those players in the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island as well.
Masha jumped on Errani early, sprinting out to a 4-0 lead in the first set. It looked like a rout as Sara was having problems winning points. But in the 5th game of the first set, Sharapova opened with a double fault followed by the first winner by Errani. Masha then doubled faulted again to fall behind love-40. Sara would go on to win that game. It seemed to loosen her up a bit, understandably nervous in her first ever Major final. In last year’s Wimbledon final Masha succumbed to some service yips, but as a testament to how much she has improved this year, she would not let that happen again. Sharapova pulled her serve together and despite Sara’s improved play, Masha just had no fear of anything Errani could do to her. Yes, Sara occassionally pulled off some sweet shots, particularly in the final game of the match where she hit a couple of amazing drop shots. But in the end, the only way Sara would win on this day was if Masha let her into the match with mistakes. Save for that one game, that did not happen.
Maria Sharapova is one of the most focused and intense athletes I have ever seen. For all of her style and elegance, on the court she is a single minded assassin. It was fitting that she was presented the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen for her Roland Garros triumph by 3-time winner (and my favorite all-time player who would have won many more had it not been for that crazy idiot who attacked her) Monica Seles. Seles is seen by some, including John McEnroe who presented expert commentary for the final along with Mary Carillo, as the woman who brought an attacking game to the return of serve, setting the template for how players like Masha attack on the return. Masha also shares Monica’s incredible focus on court. No matter what is happening, you rarely can tell whether Masha is winning or losing by her demeanor. And that is important. I think her steely will is what allowed her to ignore all the doubters and naysayers who said she could never reach the summit again. She didn’t care what anybody said about her. She remained singularly focused on her goal. The result: Maria Sharapova is the world’s #1 ranked player once again and has a trophy from every Major championship on her mantle.