Season Review: Part 2
Published November 20, 2012 12:00
For someone who once described her own movement on a clay court as reminiscent of "a cow on ice", in recent years Sharapova has looked decidedly sure footed on the surface - highlighted by victory in Rome in 2011.
However, the big one, Roland Garros, had always proven elusive.
And it was evident from the opening stanza on the terre battue that the Russian was hell bent on lifting the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen and completing her collection of Grand Slam trophies.
She sent out her first warning shot in Stuttgart, when she brushed aside Azarenka in the final with an intimidating display of baseline aggression.
One month later, she further enhanced her Roland Garros credentials with a dogged defense of her Rome title, battling through a menacing-looking draw before overturning a seemingly unassailable deficit - and fending off a match point - to defeat Li Na in the final.
But while Sharapova's quest was the dominant storyline, she was far from the only player making headlines in the spring months.
Serena Williams was every bit as impressive on the dirt, producing her best tennis on the surface since her annus mirabilis of 2002. That year, Williams captured her sole Roland Garros title and she looked in the mood to repeat the feat as she cruised to victory on the green clay of Charleston and the eye-catching blue clay of Madrid.
Meanwhile, away from the spotlight of the Premier-level events, the teak tough Sara Errani was quietly compiling some pretty impressive numbers of her own, winning in Acapulco, Barcelona and Budapest.
And Errani's success was not confined to the singles court either; alongside compatriot, best friend and training partner Roberta Vinci, she dominated the doubles scene in Europe, winning four titles, including a maiden Slam at Roland Garros.
If Errani and Vinci's triumph in Paris was somewhat predictable, there was nothing scripted about the singles competition.
In a first week littered with upsets - nine of the Top 16 seeds failed to make it past the third round - the show stealer was French outsider Virginie Razzano who belied her lowly ranking of No.111 to defeat Williams in a drama-filled first round encounter.
Williams' shock exit left the path clear for Sharapova, and she obliged by making it through to the final, although not without a scare along the way. Meeting her there was Errani after an odds-defying run that saw her take out two of the Top 10 and two former champions.
The fairytale ending, though, was reserved for Sharapova, who overcame a typically defiant Errani, 63 62, to complete her Grand Slam set and etch her name into the history books.