Sharapova Conquers Halep & Madrid
Published May 11, 2014 12:15
A lot of players have been playing against "the new Halep" for the first time over the last year, and this was another one of those intriguing match-ups, as the pair's only two previous meetings came back in 2012, when Halep was ranked No.50 and No.47, respectively. Here was a No.5-ranked Halep, winner of her first seven WTA titles over the last 12 months, and hungry for her first win over Sharapova.
But Sharapova has been a new player the last few weeks - well, renewed, more like - going 10-0 since the start of the clay court season, finally finding her very best tennis again after sitting out the second half of last year with a shoulder injury. Could she keep her clay court winning streak going?
The Turning Point
It didn't look like Sharapova would do it after the first set. Their winners were comparable - Sharapova led that stat 4-3 - but she also had three times as many errors, 15-5, and Halep cruised, 6-1.
Things swung completely in the other direction from there, though. The shots that were flying on her began finding the court - deep, powerful and overwhelming, as usual - and Sharapova was in complete control over the next two sets, breaking early in both and never looking back to win, 1-6, 6-2, 6-3.
The numbers in the next two sets spoke for themselves. After going 4-15 in winners to unforced errors in the first set, Sharapova went 18-15 across the next two (and Halep went from 3-5 to 12-19).
By The Numbers
Sharapova now has two WTA titles this year, Stuttgart and Madrid, and 31 WTA titles in her career.
The Russian has also clearly positioned herself as a favorite for the French Open - not only is she a perfect 11-0 on clay courts this year, she's also 46-3 on clay since falling to Li Na in the French Open semifinals in 2011, the only losses coming to Serena Williams (in the 2012 Madrid quarterfinals, the 2013 Madrid final and 2013 French Open final - all three of those losses were in straight sets).
And there's more - Sharapova will now rise from No.9 to No.7 on the new WTA Rankings, and she'll make an even bigger jump from No.10 to No.3 on the Road To Singapore leaderboard - the year-long journey to the BNP Paribas WTA Championships Singapore presented by SC Global in October.
"What a week," Sharapova said in her on-court interview right after the match. "Last year I lost in the finals and I really wanted to go one extra step this year, and it's just been such a fantastic week.
"Simona and I had played a couple of times before, but she's really on a different level now. I don't know how I pulled it off. In the first set I wasn't doing much to hurt her, and that's the tennis she's capable of playing - I knew I had to do some different things after the first set to win this match.
"I don't take any finals for granted, and every tournament means a lot to me. I came close last year, and I didn't have a great first set today, but I knew it wasn't over until the last point was played."
Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) May 11, 2014