Sharapova Cruises Into Stuttgart Final
Published April 26, 2014 12:14
It has not been the easiest of starts to the season for Sharapova, with early exits at both the Australian Open and Indian Wells putting her place in the Top 10 under threat. However, over the past few years, the Russian has often saved her best tennis for the clay and after a slow start in Stuttgart her game looked back to its best during her quarterfinal win over Agnieszka Radwanska.
An intriguing subplot to her semifinal against Errani concerned the rankings, with the winner assured of a place in the Top 10 on Monday.
The Turning Point
In four previous meetings with Sharapova, Errani had never taken a set and the early signs in their latest encounter were ominous. After holding serve to love in the opening game, Sharapova unleashed an inside-out forehand winner to capture the early break and it was not long before she was wrapping up the set with another imperious service game.
There was a brief glimmer of hope for Errani when she broke at the start of the second, but it was soon snuffed out. Sharapova reestablished her dominance thanks to two more breaks of her own, and, with the on-court clock still one minute shy of the hour mark, yet another inch-perfect backhand put the finishing touches to a 61 62 victory.
By The Numbers
That backhand was the 30th winner to come from the Russian's racquet and this statistic - allied to just nine unforced errors - goes a long way to explaining the one-sided scoreline. Errani also struggled on serve throughout; she was broken five times and failed to win a point on her second serve until she was 4-2 down in the second set.
"The further you go in the tournament, the harder it gets, and I really wanted to step up today and produce a good performance," Sharapova said. "The first tournament on clay is always tough - it's important to improve with each match and I think I've done that this week.
"I know how good Sara is on the surface and I was extra ready to perform against her. She has a lot of experience and really knows how to play, so I had to take care of things on my side of the net."